Tag Archives: Rating

On the issues: assessing the 2016 Republican presidential candidates

Latest Republican presidential primary polls
Latest Republican presidential primary polls (click for larger image)

The PDF is here. (50 pages, but you only have to read about the candidates you might consider voting for)

Unfortunately, radically leftist Politico is the only one with a write-up on it, so here goes:

The hard-line conservative arm of the Heritage Foundation has tough criticism for much of the 2016 field, but high praise for the Texas senator.

The political arm of The Heritage Foundation has released a detailed assessment of the 2016 Republican presidential field — and it offers harsh words for many candidates. But not for Sen. Ted Cruz.

Cruz receives almost exclusively praise for his stances in the 50-page 2016 presidential policy scorecard, the first of its kind produced by Heritage Action. The report grades the candidates across six categories: growth, opportunity, civil society, limited government, favoritism and national security.

Many of the lines in the scorecard appear destined for future attack ads.

Jeb Bush, for instance, is accused of having “kowtowed to the state’s environmental lobby” in Florida. Chris Christie “has shown favoritism toward well-connected real estate developers.” Rand Paul’s “views at times veer outside the conservative mainstream.” And Donald Trump backs “massive tariffs that would damage the American economy.”

Cruz, by contrast, manages to emerge with barely a blemish, receiving only softly worded critiques of his adopting “sound policies advanced by others” rather than crafting his own.

[…]“Cruz has been willing to pay a political price for taking on government favoritism,” the report reads.

The group even forgives Cruz for one of the few trespasses he has made against its positions, voting for a bill that served “as a bargaining chip for [Export-Import Bank] allies to secure reauthorization.” The report credits him for later switching his vote and then publicly attacking Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for allegedly lying about his plans.

Bobby Jindal, who is running hard to the right in Iowa, receives among the more glowing reviews. So does Marco Rubio, who angered the right with his pursuit of a comprehensive immigration plan after first being elected with tea party support.

The two current front-runners in the polls, Ben Carson and Trump, were dinged for their lack of a record on conservative causes and a lack of specifics in their visions. “His unconventional foreign policy prescriptions raise more questions of significant consequence than they answer,” Heritage writes of Trump.

Bush was singled out for some of the most biting critiques. “Has shown favoritism toward Florida special interests and supports amnesty” for undocumented immigrants, reads one bullet point.

In its 2016 assessment, Heritage dings Bush for not supporting recent efforts to defund Planned Parenthood this fall because he said he opposed precipitating a government shutdown. The report accuses him of “playing to President [Barack] Obama’s talking points rather than reinforcing conservatives.”

No, everyone knows that my list of candidates favors governors who have a history of putting in place actual policies that actually affected real people in the real world and got real conservative results. So on that score, Cruz and Rubio way down the list because they have achieved very little:

  1. Scott Walker
  2. Bobby Jindal
  3. Rick Perry
  4. Ted Cruz
  5. Marco Rubio

Ted Cruz’s Twitter feed and his overall feel to me is that all he does is talk, talk, talk. He just doesn’t have the record of Bobby Jindal at putting policies into place. For example, as governor, Jindal actually cut spending. He actually put in place pro-life measures that actually saved lives. He actually put in place a school choice program that helped low-income students get out of failing schools. He actually cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. He actually defended religious liberty. Cruz is just a senator, so he hasn’t got that proven record. I believe he would be conservative, but I feel safer trusting someone with experience.

Having said that, the more I read reports like this Heritage Action Scorecard report, I am finding out that Cruz has been willing to at least pay a price politically for doing the right thing at various times. So, although he does not have the accomplishments that the governors have, he has been willing to push conservative values when it was not to his advantage, politically. I have to admit, there is some value to this in one sense – we know that he would do what he says no matter what. But there is a problem with Cruz. We don’t know whether he is able to create clever policies that will draw the votes of independents and even moderate Democrats. That’s what Walker and Jindal were able to do. So, although I respect what the Heritage Action team have written, I am not changing my rankings.

Tonight’s debate

Be sure and tune in to both debates tonight on Fox Business, as I am expecting Jindal and Cruz to outperform their competitors in their respective debates:

Republican debate – Fox Business/Wall Street Journal

Time – Primary: 9 p.m. ET. Secondary: 7 p.m. ET

Location – Milwaukee Theater, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Moderators – Gerard Baker, Neil Cavuto, Maria Bartiromo

Primary: All candidates averaging at least 2.5 percent in four most recent national polls by Nov. 4.

Secondary: Remaining candidates averaging at least 1 percent in one of the four most recent polls.

Primary: Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, Rand Paul.

Secondary: Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum.

Candidates on my list are in bold. The debate will be live-streamed, so you have no excuses for missing it. This one promises to be a good one. The moderators will not be amateurs as with the Democrat-biased CNBC debate.

526 economists, including 5 Nobel prize winners, grade Romney and Obama plans

Labor Force Participation Rate
Labor Force Participation Rate

From the Daily Caller:

The 526 economists — including Nobel laureates Gary Becker, Robert Lucas, Robert Mundell, Edward Prescott, and Myron Scholes — point to six facets of Romney’s economic approach that they see as beneficial to future economic success.

  • Reduce marginal tax rates on business and wage incomes and broaden the tax base to increase investment, jobs, and living standards.
  • End the exploding federal debt by controlling the growth of spending so federal spending does not exceed 20 percent of the economy.
  • Restructure regulation to end “too big to fail,” improve credit availability to entrepreneurs and small businesses, and increase regulatory accountability, and ensure that all regulations pass rigorous benefit-cost tests.
  • Improve our Social Security and Medicare programs by reducing their growth to sustainable levels, ensuring their viability over the long term, and protecting those in or near retirement.
  • Reform our healthcare system to harness market forces and thereby reduce costs and increase quality, empowering patients and doctors, rather than the federal bureaucracy.
  • Promote energy policies that increase domestic production, enlarge the use of all western hemisphere resources, encourage the use of new technologies, end wasteful subsidies, and rely more on market forces and less on government planners.

Seven of the signatories are from Harvard University and five from Columbia University — two of President Barack Obama’s alma maters.

The economists’ statement of support pillories Obama’s economic record, claiming that his expansion of the federal government has resulted in “anemic economic recovery and high unemployment,” which will continue if his future plans are implemented.

Among the Obama policies with which the 526 economists take issue include:

  • Relied on short-term “stimulus” programs, which provided little sustainable lift to the economy, and enacted and proposed significant tax increases for all Americans.
  • Offered no plan to reduce federal spending and stop the growth of the debt-to-GDP ratio.
  • Failed to propose Social Security reform and offered a Medicare proposal that relies on a panel of bureaucrats to set prices, quantities, and qualities of healthcare services.
  • Favored a large expansion of economic regulation across many sectors, with little regard for proper cost-benefit analysis and with a disturbing degree of favoritism toward special interests.
  • Enacted health care legislation that centralizes health care decisions and increases the power of the federal bureaucracy to impose one-size-fits-all solutions on patients and doctors, and creates greater incentives for waste.
  • Favored expansion of one-size-fits-all federal rulemaking, with an erosion of the ability of state and local governments to make decisions appropriate for their particular circumstances.

We can’t afford four more years of incompetence and failure. We need to ask ourselves what economists like Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams would do. And they wouldn’t give Obama four more years. We need a change.

Census Bureau confirms DC schools spending $29,409 per pupil

Andrew J. Coulson of the Cato Institute explains how he got the Census Bureau to revise their numbers.

Excerpt: (links removed)

Four years ago, I wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post revealing that DC spent nearly $25,000 per pupil during the 2007-08 school year. I calculated this figure from the public budget documents of the District of Columbia, which I subsequently summarized and linked on this blog.

No education reporter followed up on my findings, and much lower per pupil figures continue to be reported to this day. My $25,000 figure was even greeted with skepticism by analysts at free market think tanks. One state education policy analyst wrote to say that my figure was “out of line with credible information,” and that I gave my critics “too much ammunition with this clearly questionable set of statistics.”

Indeed, the Census Bureau figures for DC’s total K-12 expenditures were substantially lower than mine. I made a note to track down the discrepancy, but other projects intervened. When I updated my calculation to use DC budget estimates for the 2008-09 school year, I found that District spending had risen to over $28,000 / pupil. The comparable number for that year reported by the Bureau of the Census was just $18,181 (which you get by dividing the total expenditure figure in Table 1 by the enrollment figure in Table 15).

So you can see why most folks were skeptical. Skeptical, but wrong.

Back in March of this year I asked my then research intern to contact the Census Bureau and ask where they got their total spending data. It turns out, they got them from a DCPS official. We presented evidence to the Bureau that that DCPS official had missed a few line items when completing the Census Bureau’s forms—to the tune of about $400 million. The Census Bureau agreed and is in the process of obtaining corrected data for the 2008-09 year. In the meantime, they made sure to ask DC officials to include all relevant items when filling out their forms for the 2009-10 school year. The result: Census Bureau data now show DC spent a total of $29,409 per pupil (obtained by dividing total expenditures in Table 1 by enrollment in Table 15). This is just a bit higher than my calculation for the preceding year.

Kudos to the Census Bureau for taking the initiative and getting DC to accurately report its public school expenditures. Now that education reporters can simply open a Census Bureau .pdf file and divide one number by another, I wonder if any will report what DC really spends per pupil? I suspect that they still will not, continuing to mislead the general public, but I would be delighted to be proven wrong.

Oh, and, BTW, this spending figure is about triple what the DC voucher program spends per pupil—and the voucher students have a much higher graduation rate and perform as well or better academically.

He’s talking about the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship voucher program which Obama dismantled and defunded in order to appease the teacher unions.

According to U.S. News, D.C. students are underperforming:

South Dakota, Nebraska, and Washington, D.C. performed the worst, with some of the worst student test scores and college readiness indexes in the nation.

Keep in mind that D.C. votes 92.5% to 6.5% for Obama in the 2008 election. This is where leftism in education comes from.

We ought to care about this, because the students in Washington D.C. are some of the poorest students in the nation – and they are often minority students. What sort of opportunity to succeed are we giving these children when we allow leftists like Obama to destroy voucher programs that are their only hope?

Rick Santorum for President of the United States

I am endorsing Rick Santorum for President.

Here’s the break-down on the other two leaders in the Republican primary, Romney and Paul:

Mitt Romney: When Mitt Romney was running for office in Massachusetts, he tried to assure Mass voters that he was solidly pro-abortion and pro-gay rights. And when elected, that’s how he governmed. The only thing that he has ever done to appeal to social conservatives is smile and look handsome, starting in 2006 – when he was out of office. I’ve written before about Romney’s pro-abortion record and Romney’s pro-gay-marriage record. He is a social liberal. The most socially liberal candidate in the primary.

Here is an excerpt from an assessment of Mitt Romney’s economic record from Club for Growth:

Because of his long tenure in public life, especially his presidential run in 2008, Mitt Romney is considered a well-vetted candidate by now.  Perhaps to his consternation, he has developed an unshakeable reputation as a flip-flopper. He has changed his position on several economic issues, including taxes, education, political free speech, and climate change.  And yet the one issue that he doesn’t flip on – RomneyCare – is the one that is causing him the most problems with conservative voters.  Nevertheless, he labels himself as a pro-growth fiscal conservative, and we have no doubt that Romney would move the country in a pro-growth direction.  He would promote the unwinding of Obama’s bad economic policies, but we also think that Romney is somewhat of a technocrat. After a career in business, quickly finding a “solution” seems to be his goal, even if it means more government intrusion as a means to an end. To this day, Romney supports big government solutions to health care and opposes pro-growth tax code reform – positions that are simply opposite to those supported by true economic conservatives.  How much Romney’s philosophy of governance will affect his policy goals if elected, we leave for the voters to decide.

There is no reason for us to counter Obama with Obama-lite.

Ron Paul: Ron Paul is the absolute worst candidate on foreign policy and national security, and bad on social policy, too. Ron Paul opposes a constitutional amendment defining marriage, because he doesn’t think that the federal government should define traditional marriage as being between one man and one woman. He has a moderately pro-life voting record. NRLC says that he votes pro-life only 75% of the time.

Excerpt from the Club for Growth report on Ron Paul’s fiscal policy:

When it comes to limited government, there are few champions as steadfast and principled as Representative Ron Paul.  In the House of Representatives, he plays a very useful role constantly challenging the status quo and reminding his colleagues, despite their frequent indifference, that our Constitution was meant to limit the power of government.  On taxes, regulation, and political free speech his record is outstanding.  While his recent pork votes are troubling, the vast majority of his anti-spending votes reflect a longstanding desire to cut government down to size.

But Ron Paul is a purist, too often at the cost of real accomplishments on free trade, school choice, entitlement reform, and tort reform.  It is perfectly legitimate, and in fact vital, that think tanks, free-market groups, and individual members of Congress develop and propose idealized solutions.  But presidents have the responsibility of making progress, and often, Ron Paul opposes progress because, in his mind, the progress is not perfect.  In these cases, although for very different reasons, Ron Paul is practically often aligned with the most left-wing Democrats, voting against important, albeit imperfect, pro-growth legislation.

Ron Paul has not been able to move legislation to implement his pro-growth vision. His fiscal positions are excellent, but he has no record whatsoever of being able to build enough consensus.

Let’s meet Rick Santorum

Here’s an article that explains the pros and cons of Rick Santorum as candidate. I really recommend this article. It is from a Catholic web site, so there is Catholic stuff in it, but it mentions all the weaknesses and strengths that I’m familiar with – it’s a balanced article.

Excerpt:

As a member of the U.S. Senate from 1995 until 2007, Santorum was the prime author and champion of key pro-life bills, including the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, a ban on partial-birth abortion, and the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which makes it a separate crime if an unborn child is harmed or killed during the commission of a stipulated list of federal crimes.

Santorum not only has signed the Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life Presidential Pledge, but he has helped raise money for that organization, too.

Santorum believes that abortion is never justified, including in cases of rape or incest.

[…]Santorum has been similarly staunch in taking a stand against same-sex “marriage,” which has earned him the enmity of homosexual-activist groups.

[…]“Rick Santorum has been a hero of the movement in every sense on marriage, life and religious liberty. No one has been braver or taken more hits for his courage than Rick,” said Maggie Gallagher, co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage.

For Santorum, the issues of marriage and abortion aren’t just social issues — they spill over into his economic philosophy.

“You cannot have limited government if you have broken families, because someone has to pick up the pieces; and the ones who pick up the pieces are the taxpayers,” Santorum has said.

While some argue that an emphasis on social issues is detrimental to a politician’s chances of being elected, Santorum on Dec. 20 got two endorsements from family-issues leaders that some say could provide the needed boost in the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses to make Santorum a first-tier candidate.

Santorum was endorsed by Bob Vander Plaats, a leading Christian conservative in Iowa, and Chuck Hurley, another family-issues stalwart. Both are affiliated with The Family Leader, which Vander Plaats founded. Hurley is president of the affiliated Iowa Family Policy Center.

“We care about any issue affecting the family, from the sanctity of human life to preserving a biblical view of marriage, and even issues such as gambling and economic issues,” said Julie Summa, spokeswoman for The Family Leader.

Summa said that the board of The Family Leader unanimously supported Santorum but decided that only the two leaders, not the organization, would endorse him because some of their conservative Christian constituency supports other candidates.

“When you listen to Senator Santorum speak,” Summa added, “he ties everything back to the family, including economics. Our economy is better when we have strong families.”

And here is the Club for Growth report on Santorum’s fiscal policy, which is his weakest link.

Excerpt:

On the whole, Rick Santorum’s record on economic issues in the U.S. Senate was above average.  More precisely, it was quite strong in some areas and quite weak in others.  He has a strong record on taxes, and his leadership on welfare reform and Social Security was exemplary.  But his record also contains several very weak spots, including his active support of wasteful spending earmarks, his penchant for trade protectionism, and his willingness to support large government expansions like the Medicare prescription drug bill and the 2005 Highway Bill.

As president, Santorum would most likely lead the country in a pro-growth direction, but his record contains more than a few weak spots that make us question if he would resist political expediency when it comes to economic issues.

It’s not that weak for a weak link, is it?

My concerns about Rick Santorum are mostly on fiscal policy. I don’t like his vote against NAFTA in 1993, and I don’t like his plan to focus corporate tax cuts on the manufacturing only – I want across the board tax cuts. His support for Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey was hard for me to get over, too. But it’s minor – there is no perfect candidate.

Rev. James Leonard points out that Santorum has a good pro-growth record:

First, Santorum was the first of the candidates to endorse the Ryan plan. No statist would ever do so. Santorum has pledged to cut 5 trillion dollars in the next 5 years.

Second, Santorum co-sponsored and fought for a balanced budget amendment that failed by a single vote, prompting Santorum to demand that the RINO (Hatfield, OR) who voted against it be stripped of his chairmanship. He did so even against such stalwart Republicans as Jesse Helms who defended the RINO. Santorum’s fight led to the RINO’s early retirement.

One final thing: Rick Santorum introduced an amendment to No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 to encourage critical thinking on issues like evolution and global warming in the schools. That’s good, but it’s also good that Rick has been pushing away from the idea of a federal role in education at all. Another plus.

Which countries have the worst ratings for religious freedom?

From CNS News.

Excerpt:

Muslim-majority countries score worst across a range of measures in a comprehensive new study tracking government restrictions on religion as well as social hostilities involving religion around the world.

The study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, released Tuesday, found that nearly one-third of the world’s population lives in countries where religion-related government restrictions or social hostilities rose significantly between mid-2006 and mid-2009.

[…]A separate index in the Pew report graded countries according to levels of social hostility involving religion. Eight of the top ten countries in that index were Muslim-majority states – Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Egypt. The other two, India and Israel, have Hindu and Jewish majorities respectively, and large Muslim minorities.

In an index measuring official interference with religious practice, 18 out of 26 countries (69 percent) whose government “prohibits worship or religious practices of one or more religious groups as a general policy,” were OIC members – Brunei, Chad, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The other eight were Burma, China, Eritrea, Laos, Madagascar, Monaco, Tuvalu and Vietnam.

A grading of countries where conversion from one religion to another is restricted was also dominated by Islamic states, accounting for 25 out of 29 countries listed (86 percent). They were Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Comoros, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

The four non-Muslim countries were Eritrea, India, Israel and Vietnam.

Taking the conversion issue a step further, among 13 countries where there were incidents of physical violence over conversions from one religion to another, 10 (77 percent) were Muslim – Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Comoros, Egypt, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria. The other three were India, Mongolia and Nepal.

I found it interesting that the tolerant religious pluralists in India are actually not very tolerant of conversions at all. You’ll recall that there are many Hindus who push for anti-conversion laws. That doesn’t sound like pluralism to me – it sounds like totalitarianism.

And more:

The Pew report also examined the issue of “defamation” of religion, tracking countries where various penalties are enforced for apostasy, blasphemy or criticism of religions.

“While such laws are sometimes promoted as a way to protect religion, in practice they often serve to punish religious minorities whose beliefs are deemed unorthodox or heretical,” it said.

It found 21 Muslim countries in that category – Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Brunei, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Western Sahara and Yemen.

The study also found 23 non-Muslim countries where penalties are enforced for such criticism of religion – Austria, Brazil, Burma, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Iceland, India, Italy, Malta, Mauritius, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, Samoa, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

This whole article is worth reading. Religious liberty is not as common as you might think if you are an American.