Friday, December 2, 2011

Newt Is No Newton

"I want to fundamentally, profoundly change the way you remember me from the 90s."

Well, technically, he is. He was born Newton Leroy Gingrich McPherson. There, however, the similarities end.

Let's stipulate that Newt Gingrich is not dumb. But the meme that's been living a long and prosperous zombie life that he is "one of the leading intellectuals of the Republican Party" is utter nonsense. His profusion of "ideas" over the years has been as shallow as his accomplishments.

Yeah, that's right, just what are his accomplishments? More on that later.

We were rudely awakened this morning by a WaPo article entitled "Under President Gingrich, White House would be an idea factory." Sheesh. Actually, if you read the article you see that the author is reasonably skeptical both of Gingrich's ideas and whether a White House with him in it would produce much. So, we have to assume that WaPo's editors were up to a little mischief with such an expansive title. In other words, the title is shilling.

Anyway, why not? Let's look at some of Newt's ideas.

Idea the First (being the among the most recent):
"It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, child laws, which are truly stupid," said the former House speaker, according to CNN. "Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools, they'd begin the process of rising."
He doubled down recently by saying:
"Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works," the former House speaker told an audience at the headquarters for Nationwide Insurance.

He then seemed to imply that a young, poor individual's only likely source of possible income would be from breaking the law.
"They have no habit of 'I do this and you give me cash'–unless it's illegal."
 Idea the First speaks for itself, but let's let Jonathan Capehart weigh in:
That was today, folks! A lot can be said about the plight of families unlucky enough not to make $60,000 for a half-hour of bloviation or about their equally unlucky children who are deprived [of] delightful cruises through the Greek isles. But Gingrich’s blanket condemnation of “really poor children, in really poor neighborhoods” is unbelievably disgusting. And it’s disrespectful of the overwhelming majority of those children and their families who live their lives with far more integrity and far less cash than Gingrich ever will.
I don't think these were the poor children Newt was talking about.

Idea the Second -- Social Security:
  • Allow younger Americans to opt in or out of Social Security as we know it.
  • If they opt out, they can invest in a private account.
  • They can choose only from a list of government-approved funds.
  • If they still lose money by this method, the government guarantees to make up any shortfall.
  • How the government will pay current benefits for current retirees (who rely on current payroll taxes for revenue) is not fully explained.
How is this wrong? Let's count the ways: It's complicated and doesn't guarantee any savings. In fact, it might be twice as expensive to administer. By guaranteeing to cover losses in private accounts, a major moral hazard is created. Plus, making citizens invest in only government-approved funds seems like "government on our backs." Sounds like government over-regulation to me, but then it's not my idea. And, finally, how do we pay to keep the old system going if half the revenue goes away? Hint: we can't.

Here's a simpler idea: Let's let everybody invest all their Social Security payroll taxes in a government-approved list of, let's say, safe government bonds, which market forces set the rates for. Then, when they're ready for retirement, the government guarantees that each retiree gets a set amount for retirement based on how much they invested in these bonds. No risk, no moral hazard. Wait, isn't that a little bit like the way it works now? Doh!!

I admit that Newt's idea, though riskier and probably more expensive, is better because he's an intellectual.

Idea the Third -- Medicare (on Hannity 11/30/2011):
Nevertheless, Gingrich went on to distance himself again from the Ryan plan, which was passed by the House in April and has become attack-ad fodder for Democrats ever since.
That plan would change Medicare from the federal entitlement it has been for decades to a voucher program: Seniors who join Medicare in 2022 and beyond would receive subsidies to help pay for private insurance they would buy.
“I would approach Medicare differently,” Gingrich told Hannity. “I would actually offer his Medicare choice next year, but I would offer it as a choice that people could take if they thought it was better for them, not as an imposition.”
So then why did Gingrich so vehemently recant his original statement?
“I was trying to say something very profound,” he said, “and I frankly backed off because there was too much noise to communicate it.”
  Let me get this straight. Gingrich is prepared to say something profound as long as people aren't too noisy. Hmm.

As for his Medicare idea, we're back to some unavoidable questions: Which plan is better? I think that's not a hard thing to decide. If the current plan costs x dollars and provides x amount of services, and the Ryan plan costs x dollars and provides x amount of services (and these figures had better be able to be determined, or why would we make a change??), we should be able to decide which plan is best for seniors. We shouldn't ask seniors to decide if we couldn't tell them point-blank which plan is the best and accompany that with clear, reliable explanations. We could, of course, explain that we're not sure one plan is better than the other, so they should buck up and roll the dice. Hint: the Ryan Plan (which Gingrich wants to offer as a choice) offers less healthcare for more money, a larger portion of which seniors will have to pay. So, what do we tell seniors, Newt? Your idea is fresh?

I was dealt a winning hand. Thanks, Newt!

Have I thought this through, or am I just not the intellectual that Newt is?

That's enough for now. My head hurts. Maybe more later.


  1. Good article. But at the bottom you have an ad for Fisher Investments, the folks who brag that Ken Fisher can spot a bear market before it happens. Except in 2008 when didn't see anything coming and he lost half my money for me.

  2. Sorry. I can't pick my ads. Thanks for the comment.