Gregg Easterbrook

Popularity contest: How to fix presidential politics in time for 2012

Aug 26, 2011 14:53 UTC


In 2000, the Electoral College put the wrong person in the White House. Al Gore won the popular vote, but George W. Bush took the presidency. In 2004, this came amazingly close to happening again. Bush had a clear edge in the popular vote, but a slight difference in the Ohio outcome would have made John Kerry president.

Ah, the Electoral College. Because a Constitutional amendment would be required to abolish it, and the low-population states would never agree, we are stuck with this anachronism, right?

No. The next president might be chosen solely on the basis of the popular vote, without Constitutional contretemps. This is closer to happening than you – and politicians – might guess.

A nonpartisan organization, National Popular Vote,  has devised a clever end-run of the Electoral College. The Constitution specifies that each state controls the allocation of its electors. Suppose, the founders of National Popular Vote realized, states enacted laws promising to give their entire slates to the winner of the overall national popular vote.

Then whomever gets the most votes becomes president. A straight-up direct popular choice, the way governors, senators and representatives are chosen. No more putting the wrong person in the White House. No more national absurdities like the 2000 Florida recount-of-a-recount.

Gov. Rick Perry, hypocrite

Aug 17, 2011 20:56 UTC

New presidential-nomination candidate Rick Perry wears his religion on his sleeve, and as a churchgoing Christian, that’s fine with me. But if you’re going to boast of your faith, brace for being seen through that lens. Jesus often denounced “scribes, Pharisees and hypocrites,” a group he called “blind fools.” That is not good news for Perry — who seems a capital-H Hypocrite.

Consider the large prayer rally Perry led this month at Houston’s Reliant Stadium. The Texas governor took considerable bashing from the media elite over this event, pundits wringing their hands about separation of church and state. There was no Constitutional problem. The First Amendment bars government from mandating religion, but does not require that government officials shun faith. A recent federal court decision, sanctioning presidential statements that encourage voluntary prayer, makes that clear. As a Christian, I hope the Houston rally brought sinners to grace.

Though fine in Constitutional terms, Perry’s ostentatious public prayer was hypocritical in terms of scripture. Jesus taught, at Matthew 6:5: “Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in synagogues and at the street corners, so they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. Whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Blame Obama and Boehner for the downgrade

Aug 7, 2011 22:24 UTC

In April 2010, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said there was “no chance” Treasury bills could lose their AAA rating. The fact that top government officials thought there was “no chance” something could happen surely is one reason it happened.

U.S. government bond ratings are falling — the S&P downgraded the US credit rating yesterday from AAA to AA-plus, the stock market is plummeting — such movements don’t necessarily have story lines like Hollywood movies. Herd instinct and randomness are factors. Even top economists can’t agree on exactly why the Dow headed south.

But the bond rating drop unequivocally is a direct result of the Barack Obama-John Boehner national-debt deal being as phony as a three-dollar-bill.

The phony-as-a-$3-bill debt deal

Aug 1, 2011 15:55 UTC

Maybe Washington can start paying invoices with $3 bills — because the “dramatic” agreement to “reduce the national debt” is as phony as a three dollar bill.

Weeks of nearly round-the-clock negotiations among the White House, House and Senate have led to an “historic” debt deal that consists almost entirely of fluff, doublespeak and empty promises.

The politicians involved get to claim victory, and presumably will be rewarded with votes and campaign donations from the special-interest groups that, pretty much across the board, were spared any pain. Young people of the United States once again are hammered. If the deal becomes law, the national debt will rise again dramatically, while there’s no guarantee any cut will materialize — and the bill for this recklessness will be passed along to those under age 30.