Never Give Up

In response to my post about winning a victory against a well-funded measure to increase property taxes to pay for child care in Monterey County, one commenter wrote:

To me, socializing a lot of child-rearing costs sounds like a ship that has sailed.

I can accept that a ship has sailed. I don’t accept that one can’t reroute the ship or even scuttle it.

Of course, both the commenter and I are using a metaphor. So let’s untangle the metaphor. In this context, to say that a ship has sailed is to typically to say that one should accept the trend and not argue against or fight against the trend. And what I’m saying is that I will continue to fight against bad policies even if they are widely accepted.

In 2009, the Club for Growth invited me to speak at a retreat in Palm Beach, Florida. The topic: newly elected President Obama’s and Congress’s increased federal expenditures on various programs. I accepted. But a few weeks before the event, the measure I was supposed to speak on was voted in by both houses of Congress and Obama had signed it. The person at the Club for Growth contacted me and said that because it had passed, there was no point in discussing it and invited me instead to speak in favor of free trade. I accepted.

But I think the organizers make a mistake. When a bad policy is implemented, it still makes sense to criticize it. On a local radio talk show in Monterey on which I was interviewed every 2 weeks, I made that point at the time. I noted that people on the left are much more strategic. When a policy that they oppose is put into law, they don’t stop criticizing it. I gave as an example the Bush tax cut of 2001, which I thought was largely a good bill. Its major good points were the reductions in marginal tax rates at virtually all income levels.

People on the left didn’t say, “The tax cut passed so I guess will have to take that as given.” No. They kept up an unrelenting attack on it. We can discuss what they got wrong about the bill, which was a lot. But that’s not my point. My point here is that they didn’t give up on overturning it. And during the first term of the Obama administration, they did overturn the cuts in marginal tax rates for the highest-income taxpayers.

When I think about political strategy, I think the way the left thinks: If I regard a policy as bad, I persist in trying to overturn it.