the scroll

“Easy for Me to Say” is a FrumForum feature series in which David Frum answers reader questions about political issues. Readers are invited to pose questions that take the form of: “OK – so what would you do instead of this or that politician you’ve criticized?”

Questions should be e-mailed to editor [at] frumforum.com with “Easy for Me to Say” in the subject line.

In my column for CNN, I discuss economic policies that can help the American middle class, in response to question about my column in The Week on the President’s Kansas speech:

Realistically, the president’s Kansas speech translates into a formula of higher taxes on the rich to pay for more spending on favored Democratic public-sector constituencies. But what about the much larger private-sector middle class? Does the president have anything to offer those people — aside from the promise of a bigger government that might hire somewhat more people to enjoy the superior retirement packages offered to government workers?

Short answer: No.

What would a serious plan to improve middle-class incomes and opportunities look like?

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Hilarious Hillary

December 12th, 2011 at 3:18 pm 20 Comments

Hillary Clinton recently expressed concern about the future of Israeli democracy because the Knesset is considering curtailing foreign governments’ funding for Israeli NGOs, and because some rabbis in Israel say they want men and women to seat separately on buses.

Does Hillary realize how hypocritical she is? In the United States, NGOs that receive money from foreign governments are considered foreign agents. And why is separate sitting between men and women on “haredi” buses a threat to democracy in Israel but not in New York (a common practice in Clinton’s home state)?

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The New Payroll Tax Strategy

December 12th, 2011 at 2:29 pm 84 Comments

House Republicans have made a bid to boldly reverse their public relations disadvantage as gridlock over the extension of the payroll tax holiday and other legislation vital to the economy continues.

For the past month or more, Republicans had been scolded as the bastion of the rich and privileged. Democrats wanted to increase taxes on the successful, using those new taxes to continue long-term unemployment insurance, a broadened payroll tax holiday, and to insure that health care providers under Medicare don’t take an overnight 27 per cent cut in payment for services.

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Today the Supreme Court announced that it has granted the State of Arizona’s petition to review the Ninth Circuit Appellate decision striking down most of S.B. 1070, the controversial state law prohibiting the employment of illegal immigrants and making it a crime for immigrants not to carry evidence of lawful admission to the country.

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Ed Morrissey observes at HotAir.com:

If Romney wanted to make himself look rich, arrogant, and clueless, he could hardly have done a better job. When was the last time someone challenged you to a ridiculous bet in order to intimidate you out of an argument? For me, I think it was junior-high school.

That’s well said, but I’d slightly revise the point. The thing that was most ugly about that moment was that it was not altogether clueless.

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Saturday night’s debate provided a good example of how current GOP orthodoxy thwarts presidential candidates from talking seriously about the economic problems of the American middle class.

Mitt Romney wants to offer a middle-class economic agenda. (Or anyway, his consultants have decided he needs to offer a middle-class economic agenda. Motives don’t matter for our purposes here.)

That agenda reduces itself to one point: elimination of taxes on capital gains, interest and dividends for Americans earning less than $200,000 a year.

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Newt is Confused by Democracy

December 12th, 2011 at 12:00 am 64 Comments

Newt Gingrich believes in much more democracy than the founding fathers.

They believed the U.S. House should consist of representatives elected by white male property owners. Voting at the time was a public act. On election day the voters would show up at a public place, usually a county seat, where food and copious amounts of alcohol were shared, and raise their hands when the name of their candidate was announced. U.S. Senators were chosen by the state legislatures for six year terms to insulate them from public opinion. The people were not trusted to elect the President and Vice President. An electoral college stood between them.

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I’m undecided and conflicted in the 2012 presidential race. As a purely political matter, I think that former Missouri Senator Jim Talent is absolutely right: Romney would be a significantly more formidable Republican presidential nominee than anyone else now running.

However, as an iconoclastic conservative, and as a contrarian, I must confess to being a big political admirer of Newt Gingrich. Newt’s willingness — and, indeed, eagerness — to do political battle appeals to me. And his willingness to think big and to challenge the conventional wisdom also is praiseworthy in my judgment.

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In my column for the National Post I discuss the investigation of Treasury Board President Tony Clement:

Last month, the RCMP announced that it had found no basis for further investigation of Treasury Board President Tony Clement.

In 2010, a former Liberal MP had asked the RCMP to examine spending in Tony Clement’s Muskoka riding. The former MP claimed that the spending on projects to ready Muskoka for the G8 summit somehow violated the law.

Over seven months, the RCMP reviewed the ex-MP’s charges. The RCMP found the charges groundless and have dropped the case.

Story over?

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The ’90s Make a Comeback

December 10th, 2011 at 12:01 am 30 Comments

The holidays are always a time for nostalgia, and this year has seen a growing outbreak of nostalgia for one decade in particular. Democrats are ranking Bill Clinton (who left office ranked by most historians in the 25-30 range of our forty-odd Presidents) now tied with JFK (and well ahead of that Cold War “perpetrator” Truman, as Democrats of the Gore Vidal/Howard Zinn school remember him). And the face of 1990s Republicanism, Newt Gingrich, is now poised to win the 2012 nomination.

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Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poem “Richard Cory” describes a man with all of life’s blessings who mysteriously commits suicide. Numerous less famous poems by Robinson similarly suggest man’s impenetrability. Many of his poems take place in the imaginary town of Tilbury, a quaint place whose inhabitants we meet but don’t really get to know. That seems to be the point. Our sense of knowing other people tends to be illusory.

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Two Americas

David Frum December 9th, 2011 at 4:22 pm 64 Comments

From my Twitter feed:

Wasserman: 82% of cong districts that flipped from D to R in 2010 had a Cracker Barrel; just 20% had a Whole Foods. http://wapo.st/uHuYRB

Another biennial international climate negotiation jamboree wraps up today.

What does the world have to show for it? Durban shouldn’t turn out to be the belly flop that Copenhagen was in 2009. Other than that, not much. See you in two years and all that.

Even a few greens are wondering if trekking to these multi-national climate hoo-hahs is worth it. A Pace University blogger mused this week that one round-trip air ticket from the East Coast to Durban would result in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 8 tons of carbon dioxide—equivalent, he noted with apologies for the pointy jab at his colleagues who made the trip—to cruising about for a year at the helm of a very large SUV.

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Steve Moore and Walter Williams’ proposed “Millionaire Subsidy Elimination Act” , floated in today’s Wall Street Journal, surely has a lot to recommend it. People who make a huge amount of money surely don’t deserve any true individual benefits from the state.

Nice as it sounds on paper, however, making the idea work in practice seems to present a lot of practical and logistical hurdles. None seem insurmountable but all would have to be dealt with in some way. Here are four:

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David Brooks makes a great point in his column today about Newt Gingrich’s temperament:

But how you believe something is as important as what you believe. It doesn’t matter if a person shares your overall philosophy. If that person doesn’t have the right temperament and character, stay away.

I’d make that same point in a slightly different way.

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Earlier this week, in an essay that comprehensively debunked the so-called “memogate” controversy that has paralysed Pakistan and driven its already fragile civilian government to the brink of collapse, David Frum described the architect of the crisis, Mansoor Ijaz, as “a reckless fantasist motivated by childish vanity”.

Now Ijaz has responded with a rebuttal that vividly proves the case of those calling him a fraud.

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I have not commented on the recent Tom Edsall piece on the Democrats abandoning the white working class but Michael Barone does so here. An interesting nugget in that article is that Obama won a greater share of the vote than all but three Democratic Presidents but:

[H]e did it without capturing the vast middle of the electorate. He won with a top-and-bottom coalition, carrying voters with incomes over $200,000 and under $50,000 and losing those in between. He carried voters with graduate school degrees and those with no high school diplomas and ran only even with the others.

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GOP Zombies vs. Dem Vampires

December 9th, 2011 at 12:00 am 32 Comments

A statistical study indicates that our pop culture churns out more vampire-related entertainment under Democratic administrations and more zombie stories under Republicans. The implication of the research is that those icons act as archetypes for each party.

Naturally, as a Republican I’m suspicious of “scientists” and the conclusions they draw from their so-called “research.” To determine whether these horror themes make sense as symbols of our political parties I think we should, as always, rely on a test of the gut level truthiness of those assumptions.

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A Permanent EU “Crisis”?

December 8th, 2011 at 4:44 pm 4 Comments

On December 7th, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel presented a letter to the European Council President Herman Van Rompuy with their proposals for how to solve the current EU crisis. Except their letter was not really a proposal, in that it did not consist of a draft treaty amendment but only broad principles.

But it is clear that the plan they have in mind is creating a state of perpetual “crisis” — and permanent powers to deal with it — inside the eurozone and any other non-euro countries that would be bafflingly inclined to join it.

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I Love the 90′s

December 8th, 2011 at 3:23 pm 12 Comments

David Frum is concerned that a Newt Gingrich revival will bring back memories of the Clinton impeachment scandal, but what if the real danger is the return of one of the most popular children’s action-adventure shows? I of course refer to the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.

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