The lesson of ‘Julius’

Remember last year when the Obama campaign came up with the idea for “Julia”, a fictional woman who was supposed to represent how Obama made life better for women everywhere? (You know, that phony, made-up ‘War on Women’ and all that.) I wrote about this about a year ago.

Well, one year later the good folks at the Competitive Enterprise Institute came up with the idea of “Julius”, a black worker affected by Big Labor and its policies and politics. It’s well worth the three minutes of your time to watch. I’ll wait.

While the account is fictional, the problems being caused by these policies are not. Yet the liberals never seem to learn – they seem to think that just one more increase in the minimum wage will do the trick, or one more revenue hike will lead to the proper “investments” of taxpayer money. And the golden goose will never stop a-layin’.

All these ideas, though, defy logic.

For example, the idea of paying just minimum wage is that of giving someone who doesn’t have a high skill level and is not all that valuable to the employer the amount which has to be given by an artificially-created law which has no relation to the actual market. If someone’s labor is worth $7.25 an hour to the company and no more, well, then that person will be a minimum wage hire. But if the minimum wage is $10 an hour – and they’ve tried to do this in Maryland on a couple of occasions – there’s no reason to hire someone who’s still only worth $7 or $8 an hour to the compamy because it would be unprofitable in the long run. That’s the point made in the video. (One thing not mentioned is that the reason unions push for minimum wage increases is because many labor contracts are pegged to maintaining a salary point a certain percentage or dollar figure above the minimum, which means automatic but unearned and non-negotiated wage increases for their workers if the minimum wage goes up.)

But if there were no minimum wage, all it would mean is that the labor market would find its level. Arguably, this is one problem which is blamed on illegal immigration and the penchant to work on a cash or “under the table” basis – they could be happy with $5 an hour if taxes aren’t taken out and there’s no need for a Social Security number.

Taken to its opposite extreme, what if there were a maximum wage and no one could work for more than, say, $20 an hour? What incentive would anyone have to succeed knowing they could only reach a certain level, and what enjoyable parts of life would we have to do without given the artificial limit of $800 a week for 40 hours of labor? That’s only $41,600 a year before taxes. To me, having a minimum wage is just as unrealistic as having a maximum one – and don’t get me started on the idiocy presented by the so-called “living wage.”

Without a minimum wage, would employers try to take advantage and pay, say, $5 an hour? (Ironically, that was my hourly wage on my first job in 1986 – one Lincoln per hour.) Some would, but in time these low-level employers would find that the labor pool willing to take that kind of wage would leave a lot to be desired, so they would have to increase their offerings to find better workers. On the other hand, in places where labor is in high demand, like the oil-rich portions of North Dakota, even workers at menial jobs get double-digit hourly pay. (Incidentally, North Dakota is a right-to-work state.) Once the employment market levels out there, that boom will slow down and wages will come back to a particular supportable level for both employers and employees, with those who work in the oil fields remaining on the top of the wage totem pole because their work is more valuable to their employer than a guy flipping burgers at the local fast food joint, as it should be.

But there is one entity which will never settle for the minimum wage, and that’s government. Living in a state which seems to be the leader in one category above all else – tax and fee increases – it always seems as though Big Labor is right behind them every time the state wants a little more out of our pockets. Perhaps this is more understandable in the case of increasing the gas tax, as those unions involved in construction moaned and complained that we hadn’t increased the tax in over two decades. (To which I replied: so?) Supposedly, the additional jobs created by building new infrastructure – even as frivolous as new light rail mass transit lines will eventually be – will assist in jump-starting the state economy.

Again, however, this is a case of gaming the market and not allowing it to seek its own level. Granted, to use the example above, we do need to improve our roads and transportation infrastructure but there were other methods of doing so and more productive ways to spend the money. Nor does this count the other tax increases we have endured over the last half-decade on income and sales taxes, additional fees, and various other methods of vacuuming our hard-earned dollars out of our greedy little fingers and into the deserving coffers of the state for “investment.” Instead of each of the six million or so Marylanders making their own decisions on where to spend, they get part of their check confiscated from them so the state can transfer wealth from flush to impoverished, taking a decent-sized cut for themselves in the process and producing nothing. Julius is the one left poorer for it.

In the video, Julius reaches what’s supposed to be his golden years without a pension because his company was driven to bankruptcy by the union he didn’t belong to. Unfortunately, the creation of promises over a generation – without the actual funding to back them up – are poised to harm both union and non-union retirees alike. Public pension funds nationwide on the aggregate have a funding gap between assets and promised benefits estimated at around $1,000,000,000,000. (That’s one trillion dollars, or about 3/10 of our annual federal budget.) While that pales next to the unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare, this is still a vast sum which in all likelihood won’t be made whole without rampant inflation or a significant devaluation of the dollar.

Perhaps it’s a good plan for those under 50 to plan on a retirement – if leaving a job is even a possibility in that distant of a future – without either Social Security or Medicare because neither can survive in their present form. Simply put, they aren’t taking in as much as they are putting out. A half-century or more of promises and IOUs was never addressed because people thought the good times would last and last while the bill never arrived. That simply defies common sense, and here’s your invoice.

We don’t know what happened to “Julius” but I’m sure a lot of people can guess the rest – he dies a pauper, having done things the way he was told to do and getting no reward for it because other special interests figured out how to prime the political pump and have the system rigged in their favor. This all can be changed, but it will take a long-term concerted effort and there will be some bitter, bitter medicine to swallow in the interregnum.

As the son of a former union worker whose plant was a casualty of the recession of the early 1990s and a mom who worked for over 20 years to help support the family, I can understand just where this was coming from. My mom might not agree, but I hope she has a happy Mother’s Day nonetheless.

The importance of data

Fellow blogger Judy Warner, who now contributes to the Potomac Tea Party Report, tipped me off to an article on the Atlantic website; an article which provided a glimpse at perhaps the most important part of Barack Obama’s electoral victory. Obviously it’s packed with effusive praise for Obama’s campaign in general, for the Atlantic is at heart a highbrow liberal magazine.

But there’s an important point to be considered: say all you want about Obama’s wretched foreign and domestic policies, but he knew how to get re-elected despite being arguably the worst president since Jimmy Carter when it came to bungling both sides of the equation. Oh sure, we on the conservative side know that the mainstream media ran interference for him like the Chicago Bears of another era blocked for Walter Payton but in the end it was Payton who made the defense miss tackles and not easily bring him down.

The part about the Atlantic‘s piece by Alexis Madrigal which stuck out to me the most, though, was the Obama campaign’s willingness to go outside the political arena and find people who simply knew how to make the best use of the technology out there. (If only he would do the same for economics and Constitutional scholarship.) Of course, there was a symbiotic relationship between the two since I’m certain the vast majority of those who signed on were in Obama’s philosophical corner, but this is the technology edge that the Republicans swore up and down they would negate this time around. Instead, we had the well-documented and discussed crash of the ORCA system on Election Day which cemented the demise of Mitt Romney’s Presidential bid.

The orphan of Romney’s technology failure could be traced back to the fact that those who were by trade political consultants – and hence “knew how the system worked” – really didn’t know squat about the technological side of things. Ten years ago e-mail lists were golden because that was going to be the new way to reach voters. In fact, as I recall, the first rendition of Obama For Against America had a massive list of somewhere around 13 million e-mail addresses to start from (including mine.) But their technology team built up from there and integrated all sorts of data collection and outputs tailored from it.

As an example, remember the post where I related the fact they knew I hadn’t donated to the Obama campaign? The fact that they could tie together the database which had my e-mail address and the one where they had the records of who donated was seemingly beyond the capability of the Romney camp. Instead, the Romney side would send me the EXACT SAME e-mail several times – once from their campaign and then through three or four different “sponsored content” sites to whom I’m sure the Romney people paid handsomely for their list. Unfortunately, I happened to be at the very center of that Venn diagram and I’m betting that most of you reading this were too. But does a generic e-mail motivate someone to go to the polls or donate?

Once again, the key difference came down to data. Maybe I wasn’t high up on the sophistication level of the Obama people because they knew I was sort of a lurker on their e-mail list. I’d bet a dollar to a donut they knew I was a XXX Republican voter and therefore gave me the minimum of e-mail efforts; meanwhile, the uncommitted or newly registered voter (or one who bothered to fill out more information at the Obama site, unlike me) had a variety of messages tailored for him or her. You don’t honestly think the “Julia” advertising campaign or the Lena Dunham “First Time” commercial weren’t calculated to arouse a group they knew they had a maximum of potential voters within? It’s also why they promoted the false “war on women” narrative, with plenty of media help to play up unfortunate statements by U.S. Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock.

Since the Romney campaign all but ignored Maryland, let’s look at one statewide Republican campaign we contested, that of Dan Bongino. Just as a recap, Bongino began running for the U.S. Senate as a first-time candidate in the spring of 2011. He had no political experience and his main initial backing was from someone who had ran and lost badly in his first run for political office at the statewide level a year earlier in Brian Murphy. It wasn’t exactly a broad platform to begin from, and the key question in the race early on was whether 2010 GOP U.S. Senate nominee Eric Wargotz would try again. He didn’t.

But Bongino worked hard to overcome many of his disadvantages, and had the attribute of a compelling, man-bites-dog sort of story: a former Secret Service agent quits to make a seemingly quixotic U.S. Senate run in a liberal bastion of a state. Moreover, he’s young, well-spoken, and telegenic, with a rags-to-riches life story that unfortunately too few got to hear outside of the conservative echo chamber. Dan did well at nationalizing his campaign thanks to that story, and managed to win the Republican primary in April over the game but underfunded Richard Douglas and several other less qualified candidates.

Perhaps the Bongino campaign hit its peak just before Labor Day, because just as people decided to start paying attention a newcomer jumped into the race with a populist promise and millions of dollars at his disposal. Obviously this threw the Bongino campaign out of balance and too much time was spent trying to fight off the challenger on the ladder below while the guy above him had little to do but watch the other two battle it out. It was almost as if Dan had to run a second primary campaign in the midst of a general election, this time against an opponent who was much better-funded and inundated the airwaves with slick 30-second commercials beseeching people to “declare your independence.” Like it or not, the “independence” pitch was a message that worked with those who were sick of party infighting but didn’t want to bother enough to go into the details of Rob Sobhani’s pledges.

But imagine what could have been had Dan had the same sort of database and expertise used by the Obama campaign? He could have targeted his message in such a manner to counter the incumbent’s record to certain voters, rebuke the so-called “independent” to wavering supporters, and kept the money stream flowing from the die-hard element. There was no question in my mind that Dan’s message had broad appeal, and perhaps had the roles been reversed between Bongino and Sobhani to where Rob was the GOP nominee and Bongino the unaffiliated candidate, the results would have been about the same. The only difference would be that the Maryland GOP would have been embarrassed about losing to an independent candidate as well as a Democrat.

That’s not to say that there aren’t potential databases at our disposal. We have an idea of those who are most worried about illegal immigration (Question 4), and are pro-family (Question 6). Those who came out against Question 5 and Question 7 can also be construed as sympathetic to at least part of our message. Then add in all the AFP people, TEA Party participants, and fiscal conservatives we know and one can build up a little bit of a knowledge base. Of course, the key is keeping it up to date and determining relevant messaging for the situations which crop up.

A new era is dawning in politics. The old scattershot standby of sign waving doesn’t seem to be very effective anymore, even as well as Dan did it in one memorable afternoon. There were a lot of cars going by on Rockville Pike that day to be sure, but there was no way of knowing whether these were even registered voters. Maybe it’s because I don’t get a lot of Democratic campaign e-mail, or maybe there’s just not enough of a base around here to make it worthwhile, but I never hear about a Democratic sign waving unless it’s in the form of a larger protest. What few Democratic tactical e-mails I received (from the Obama campaign, naturally) had to do with person-to-person events – making phone calls from the local headquarters or having “watch parties” for various campaign events at people’s homes. The former was probably more effective for reaching out to undecided voters while the latter kept the zealots motivated to keep giving of their time and talents. And it came down to having the database to know where I lived and what events were being planned by supporters via solid communications between volunteer and campaign. Those functions were handled on a local level on the Romney side, not always well.

It has been said to me on many occasions that conservatives win on issues and that we are a center-right nation. Obviously I believe that and if anything I think we need a stronger dose of limited government.

But data is king. It’s not enough to have the registration lists and do the door-to-door and phone calls, both of which seemed to be sadly lacking in Maryland thanks to a self-defeating prophecy which states Republicans can’t win statewide elections so why bother trying? That’s a good start, but we also need to invest in the electronic end of things and, more importantly, look outside the incestuous web of political consultants who talk a good game about political IT and find those who do these things for a living. Not all of the Web and social media gurus are liberal Democrats – admittedly, most are but we have to build up a farm team there as well.

I believe we can overcome all those “demography is destiny” and “you can’t convince the minorities to vote GOP” naysayers by using the right data to send them the conservative message. We can win, but it will take hard work, a lot of prudent investment outside of the good-old-boy, inside-the-Beltway system which continues to insure us defeat after defeat, and less of a reliance on things we always thought worked before but have outlived their usefulness.

All of us movement conservatives have some sort of talent, and there are a growing number who believe mine is in analyzing information and providing it to readers in a coherent fashion. As I said in my book. I believe there’s a place for someone of my talents in a conservative, limited-government movement. Years ago I read a self-help book which said I should manage around my weaknesses so I took that to heart and play to my strengths, and mine is in gathering my thoughts and turning them into pixels on a computer screen or words on a page.

But there’s a far bigger place for those who know how to corral data and put it to use so people like me can communicate to the largest number of relevant people possible, while others who have that gift of gab and outgoing personality needed for the task are sent to knock on the right doors and dial the right phone numbers with the right message for the listener. It’s never going to be foolproof, but we have a long way to go just to be adequate.

Finally, we have to treat this like a war. Of course I don’t mean that in the sense of carnage and mayhem, but the idea of taking time off or letting someone else do the job is no more. A soldier has to be ready for anything at any time, and we have to be ready to mobilize at a moment’s notice, keeping an eye out for future elections. On that front, I’m very disappointed I’ve seen no action in my hometown and no credible candidate file to either run against our mayor or the two City Council members whose seats are up in this cycle. Nor do we have a good idea yet of who will be running locally in 2014. (In that case, though, we happen to have a number of incumbents but there are seats we’d love to contest and fill as well.)

Not all campaigns will be successful, but I think we can take a step toward eventual success in learning from our tormentors, and the Atlantic profile provides a quick case study.

The real life of ‘Julia’

In a blatant pitch to woo female voters – presumably the base of the Democratic machine – the Obama re-election campaign came up with the “Life of Julia” concept. Poor Julia is seen suffering through a life of government dependence from age 3 when she’s enrolled in Head Start (I suppose by Julia’s unseen parents) to age 67, when she “retires comfortably” on Social Security.

Of course, this little slideshow has been unmercifully (and rightfully) parodied by Lee Stranahan into the Life of Rover, given a conservative rebuttal by the Heritage Foundation, put under a libertarian remix, and become fodder for endless Twitter shots using the #Julia hashtag, some of which are featured at the tail end of this article by Meredith Jessup in The Blaze. It seems like every time Obama tries to go viral with a hashtag, conservatives have a ton of fun with it.

My question, though, is why Obama’s so worried about the female vote. One thing the President has going for him is a fair amount of personal likability, as the First Family has been carefully scripted to appeal to women as a happy nuclear family. Granted, the Obama children are far younger than President George W. Bush’s twin daughters, but it seemed like every time one of the Bush twins misbehaved it was made into news – on the other hand, a recent Mexican trip for Obama’s older daughter Malia had its accounts scrubbed and sanitized after word got out about the 13 year old’s journey south of the border.

But women have been hard hit by the poor economy, and oftentimes the female handles the bills in the family. Whether they’re a single mom or part of the rapidly disappearing nuclear family of Mom, Dad, and two kids, women have found that over the last three years it’s been getting harder to make ends meet.

And there’s also intention behind making ‘Julia’ a single mom – you may notice that there’s no husband in the picture when she has ‘Zachary.’ (Does that sound like a focus-grouped name or what?) Of all the women who voted in 2008, it was single women who came in most heavily for Obama – a 70-29 margin. If he loses even 10 percentage points on that total, Barack Obama has to know that his re-election bid is toast. But single women haven’t been exempt from the stagnant economy, either.

In reviewing the ‘Julia’ slides, there’s also no question that the Obama campaign is playing the class envy card to the hilt, even in this example. At 17 Julia could lose her public education funding to “pay for tax cuts to millionaires,” for example. And Julia’s life is doomed if we even cut one penny from these bloated federal programs or dispense of Obamacare, as several slides warn.

But would it? What if Julia’s parents didn’t send her to Head Start but took the time to read to the child – or better yet, made the investment of time and effort to homeschool her – even as they sacrifice the tax burden of helping to support the public education they aren’t using? Chances are Julia would still be able to enroll in that college. (I’m also curious: if Julia’s going into web design, is a four-year degree even required? It seems like she could acquire those skills in a two-year associate program at a community college.)

And perhaps her parents, if they raised her right, would instill in Julia the work ethic to get her to avoid taking out thousands of dollars of student loans because she would have learned to be responsible for the results of her own education while working her way through college, along with the moral compass to wait until the right stage of life to marry Zachary’s father before they have the little rugrat. Until that point she would pay for her own contraception, thank you. (Needless to say, abstinence is free.)

That work ethic would come in handy when Julia opens her own business because she will have to work twice as hard to overcome the roadblocks in her way – not because she is a woman, but because of all the red tape an overbearing bunch of pencil pushers throw in her path. She would also have the pride to not accept work simply from the set-asides given to a female-owned business, but because she does a damn good job of it. It’s the only way she would know.

And Julia would retire comfortably because she lived a reasonable but frugal lifestyle, investing wisely in her future despite government’s best efforts to confiscate every dollar she made. Julia and her husband of over 40 years would enjoy the sunset of their lives despite never receiving a Social Security check from a bankrupt system.

But perhaps my favorite parody of Julia came from the Facebook site AttackWatch:

The Gaps of Julia

At 1 year old: Under President Obama, Julia’s posts “I hate Obama!” on her Facebook page. She is investigated by the Secret Service for threats against the President. (That’s one precocious child!)

At 16 years old: Under President Obama, Julia goes goth and changes her religious affiliation to “Wicca.”

At 18: Under President Obama, Julia realizes she’s learned more on her own than she ever has at public school and registers as a Republican voter.

At 19: Under President Obama, she realizes her Pell grants don’t cover anything but a small tuition, so she takes out student loans to supplement her income.

At 23: Under President Obama, Julia begins her career as a web designer. Despite what Obama said all those years ago, she’s still paying hundreds a month on her student loans. She makes her payments on time, but rising taxes have made it difficult to eat much more than rice, beans, and ramen. She’s happy to know she can sue for wage discrimination, except that she’s making more than her male coworker who regularly attends Occupy Wall Street meetings. Since he’s known to go into work stoned, she’s inclined to believe the pay difference is because of her performance.

At 25: Under President Obama, Julia has worked as a web designer for the past four years. She’s chosen to be responsible with her health and family planning, and doesn’t want to drain the system by using other peoples’ money for her sex life.

At 31: Under President Obama, Julia and her husband decide they’re financally secure enough to have a child. Julia wishes she could be a stay-at-home mom, but she can’t because men’s wages have been stagnant for 50 years now and they can’t live solely on her husband’s income. She slips and lets the tax payers pick up the tab for her maternity leave. Both her and her husband’s taxes go up the following year. They consider selling their house to move into a condo half the size.

At 37: Under President Obama, Julia’s son Zachary starts kindergarten. She’s there to see him off at the bus stop because she quit her job, deciding the slight bit of extra pay wasn’t worth it since taxes and highly-regulated child care costs were so high. She and her husband fight more than they’d like, but remain close. Zachary eats better than they do, they make sure of that.

At 42: Under President Obama, Julia decides to start her own at-home business to try and bring in at least a meager extra income. She finds that Obama’s tax cuts for small businesses help, but his extra excise taxes on manufacturers and healthcare and income do not. It’s not a zero-sum game; she’s losing money. She wants to help people, so she hires another worker, but has to lay him off after a year because she can’t afford the healthcare costs.

At 65: Under President Obama, Julia submits an application for Medicare. She’s eagerly granted acceptance.

At 66: Under President Obama, Julia develops a brain tumor. She submits an application to Medicare, which is denied. “Due to age,” and “See Quality of Life (QoL) Regulations” stick out through her watered eyes. She chokes and sobs. She hugs her 70 year old husband when he returns from work. They cry together, in bed, just holding each other. “We tried,” Julia whispers to her husband.

At 67: Under President Obama, Julia passes in her husband’s arms. Full of anger that his ailing wife was denied care from the Obamacare Government because of costs, he takes his wrath to Facebook. He writes, “President Obama, I can’t stand everything you’ve done!”

At 71: Under President Obama, Julia’s husband is investigated by the Secret Service for threats against the President.

President Obama has now been president for at least 67 years.

You might laugh, but the sad fact is that millions of gullible voters will lap up the Obama Kool-Aid and believe he’s only trying to help the middle class. He’s helping them, all right – helping them become poor and dependent on government handouts of some sort.