Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Schiff Among The Liberals

Liberal journalists don’t quite know how to undermine the candidacy of Peter Schiff, who is running against Sen. Chris Dodd as a Republican, but in time they’ll figure it out.

On Dennis House’s “Face the State,” two liberal commentators, Rick Green of the Hartford Courant and Brian Lockhart of the Stamford Advocate tossed Schiff around on their horns for awhile. It was difficult to tell who was having more fun.

A libertarian economist, Schiff tends to reserve his fire for autocratic governments that distort private transactions through either unsupportable taxes or regulations or both. In fact, if you have a moment, he would be happy to explain to you that all regulations and business taxes are impositions on wages, because businesses pass along these charges to their customers. An unfettered private market, according to Schiff’s view, distributes goods and services more efficiently and less expensively than over-taxed, over-regulated economies. Schiff prefers consumption taxes to income taxes.

If Schiff were a politician in, say, Hugo Chavez’s utopia, he would instantly be gagged and rendered harmless. Some of Schiff’s views do not sit well with liberals at ease in command economies

On the other hand, liberals have been flirting for a long while with libertarianism lite on some issues vital to them.

Liberals have often maintained that government officials should not post themselves under our beds and write legislation forcing their puritanical moral dictums on gays who want to marry and be their potty old selves. Schiff told Green he had no problem with gaiety.

Neither is the Republican candidate for senator hot on the war in Afghanistan: It’s costly and no one in the Obama administration yet has settled upon a reasonable goal for the country. What is the end point of our presence there, Schiff asked? Given the economic recession in the United States precipitated by the collapse of the housing industry, which in turn was caused by Dodd and Rep. Barney Frank, can we afford to maintain a presence in Afghanistan until we lose the war?

Schiff would not obstruct attempts to legalize medical marijuana. When asked the question by Green,” Schiff seemed rather puzzled and responded at first with an innocent shrug, saying “I don’t smoke marijuana…” Then, divining the import of Green’s question, he gave a cheery green light to decriminalization.

One could almost see Green ticking off the usual liberal litmus test list: Marijuana okay… gays alright... anti-war views sound…

Still, it was clear to both interrogators that sitting before them was a troubling candidate. Should Schiff be successful in toppling U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, what would he DO in Washington? Would he spend most of his time knitting his register like Madame Defarge, while watching politician’s heads fall from the guillotine into baskets?

Schiff gave his two questioners to understand that he would be very busy dismantling the regulatory machinery in Washington D.C. This is not the way to gain friends and influence liberals, and the dread prospect caused a few worry marks to appear on Green’s forehead.

Wait a minute, cautioned Lockhart, isn’t it common knowledge that all of our troubles right now have been caused by a lack of regulation?

It is, answered Schiff, “and common knowledge is wrong.” Then he led the two through a maze of cause and effect that pointed a boney finger in the direction of regulators who laid the trip wires that blew up the housing market, one of whom was Dodd.

The imperturbable House, used to such patter, seemed to take the coming Schiff revolution in stride.

Things became confusing when Green asked whether Schiff would have supported the GI bill after World War II. This was the bill that facilitated college educations for returning servicemen. Schiff said he didn’t know and asked Green if he knew why present day college education was so expensive.

It is altogether possible that Schiff, who does do his homework, read Green’s article in the Courant a week earlier entitled “High-Quality Education Comes At A High Price.” Green’s second paragraph began: “The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education estimates that tuition and fees have risen 439 percent since 1982, while the Consumer Price Index has grown by 106 percent and median family income has increased by 147 percent.”

Education costs, Schiff told Green, follow in the rut of government subsidized student loans. If money is cheap and credit easy, students avail themselves of more loans. Colleges then hike up their costs to capture readily available money.

If Linda McMahon is the P.T. Barnum of Connecticut politics during what promised to be an entertaining scramble for Dodd’s seat, Schiff is its Cassandra. Or, better still, he is Peter crying wolf -- when the wolf really is at the door.
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