July 19, 2010

Harry Reid Surges in Nevada - or Does He?

Hatched by Dafydd

The blogosphere is agog at doings in the Silver State, where a Mason-Dixon poll showed Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-NV, 95%) "surging" to a seven-point lead over Tea-Party darling Sharron Angle. This has wrung wails of despair from the Right and giddy jitterbugging on the hard Left, with many solemnly pronouncing that the Tea Party movement has lost the war.

But in reality, Reid did not "surge" at all; he remains mired in the low-forties, just about where he was in the last three Mason-Dixon polls. What happened was that a harsh series of anti-Angle adverts drove her support down, from 44% to 37%. Reid's support ticked up slightly from 42% to 44% -- statistically insignificant movement:

The Mason-Dixon poll showed that if the general election were held now, Reid would win 44 percent to 37 percent for Angle. Ten percent were undecided, 5 percent would choose "none of these candidates," and the remaining 4 percent would pick another candidate on the ballot.

That is the best Reid has done against Angle this year in a series of Mason-Dixon polls. Previously, the two had been locked in a statistical dead heat with Angle finishing just ahead of Reid in February, 44 percent to 42 percent, and in June, 44 percent to 41 percent, and Reid finishing just ahead of Angle in May, 42 percent to 39 percent.

The phone survey, taken Monday through Wednesday of 625 likely voters in Nevada, is the first in which Reid has finished ahead of Angle outside the margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Voters are still not embracing the Democratic incumbent and Majority Leader of the Senate; but he did succeed in raising doubts in voters' minds over Sharron Angle's "extremism." So what are the weird, extreme, hysterical Sharron Angle policy pronouncements that Reid is hammering?

They include allowing young workers to opt out of Social Security and instead open personal retirement accounts, doing away with federal agencies such as the Education Department to cut spending and developing Yucca Mountain into a nuclear reprocessing facility.

"We have always said that as Nevada voters become familiar with Sharron Angle's extreme positions on Social Security, education and Yucca Mountain, they will reject her agenda," Reid campaign spokesman Jon Summers said in a statement.

Now would be a great time for Angle to use some of the great gobs of greenbacks she raised last quarter to push ads not only bashing Reid -- hardly necessary, considering how loathed he remains in Nevada -- but more importantly, talking directly to Nevadans about those exact positions, explaining why they make good sense and aren't extreme after all.

Social insecurity

The Social Security system is going broke; and when it goes, it could take the entire American economy down with it. Nearly every economist agrees that the unfunded liability of our current system, which is about $17.5 trillion, according to the Social Security Administration's own figures, is a looming economic Armageddon:

Social Security's actuaries make such a calculation on page 64. It says that Social Security's unfunded liability in perpetuity is $17.5 trillion (treating the trust fund as meaningless). The program would need that much money today in a real trust fund outside the government earning a true return to pay for all the benefits that have been promised over and above future Social Security taxes. In effect, the capital stock of the nation would have to be $17.5 trillion larger than it is right now. Alternatively, the payroll tax rate would have to rise by 4%.

These figures are from May of 2009; but the Democratic juggernaut of Congress and the Democrat president have done absolutely nothing to solve this problem, nor proposed anything but slightly extending retirement age. This is akin to bailing out a sinking rowboat with a Dixie cup... it may delay the disaster by a few minutes, but it sure doesn't plug the leak.

(One should note that Medicare has an even huger unfunded liability of -- take a deep breath -- $88.9 trillion, according to the Medicare board of trustees. On this front, Barack H. Obama has done something: He nicked half a trillion bucks away from Medicare to spend on other priorities. Thank you, masked man!)

Simply put, the current Social-Security system is utterly unsustainable: People are perversely living longer, which means that every worker is carrying a much greater totem pole of retirees on his back than when the system was enacted in 1935. We must do something different, or else the system will collapse, and retirees will receive nothing. Social Security must be wholly or partially privatized -- soon! -- or we can kiss the American economy goodbye.

Folks can dicker about the exact details of such privatization, but a last-ditch effort to rescue retirement security cannot possibly be characterized as "extremism."

Department of Redundancy Department

"Doing away with federal agencies such as the Education Department to cut spending" has been a perennial Republican pipe dream since 1980, when some guy from California got himself elected president on a similar promise. When a proposal has been rattling around Washington D.C. for THIRTY BLOODY YEARS without ever being enacted, voted upon, or even seriously introduced as legislation, then it's far too elderly to be dubbed "extremist." It becomes... charming.

¡Rabanos radiactivos!

Yeah, yeah, Nevadans are worried about radioactive exposure from the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. Of course, the potential level of exposure is less than folks living in mile-high Denver "suffer" just from cosmic rays. Nevertheless, Nevadans are annoyed that their state is singled out for such a repository, merely because it's practically deserted.

Well, in this day and age, it looks like nuclear power plants are going to be making a big-time comeback, as soon as the kook in la Casa Blanca stops tilting at windmills -- or we get a new kook. And if the federales are so anxious for Nevada to store the waste... well, I'm sure they'd be willing to jack up the gold paid to the Silver State for the privilege.

Let's see Sharron Angle make that argument to Nevadans -- and let's see how a significant annual paycheck might change the public perception of the merits of the Yucca Mountain site.

In any event, the storage site has been kicking around since 2000 and has been supported by most Republicans and a great many Democrats. It's risible to call it "extremism." Even if people disagree with Angle on the subject, if she sticks to her guns and quietly but logically defends the position, I don't think it will seriously hurt her in the race. It's hardly the most important topic on voters' minds and couldn't possibly overcome Pinky Reid's vulnerability on the jobs issue, the economy issue, or the national-security issue, let alone all three put together.

Extremist rhetoric

The point being that what Harry Reid dubs "extremist" should not be blithely accepted by conservatives: e.g., Paul Mirengoff at Power Line responds to this single Mason-Dixon poll, showing no surge for Reid but a minor and likely temporary slump for Angle, by accepting at face value the Harry Reid spin:

PAUL adds: On the minus side, Mason-Dixon Polling & Research finds that Harry Reid leads Sharron Angle by a 44-37 margin. The two were running neck-and-neck until Reid launched a series of ads portraying Angle as too extreme. The ads seem to have hit the target.

Let's hope that what should be a huge year for Republicans doesn't turn into merely a good one due to the selection of unattractive candidates.


Rather, we should loudly reject the very premise that dissent against the relentless accumulation of state power constitutes prima-facie evidence of "extremism." In fact, refusing to acquiesce to radicalism is the polar opposite of extremism; it is conservative in the broadest sense of the word.

We cannot let the radical Left set the terms of debate, or we'll paint ourselves into a hole. Let us fight over every slick sophistry, tendentious redefinition, and argumentative assumption. We're not obliged to make progressives' task easier by appeasing them on the fundamental creeds of American individualism, Capitalism, and exceptionalism.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 19, 2010, at the time of 3:52 AM

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