Politics & Policy

Armageddon, Part Four!

As noted, Nancy Pelosi declared of the GOP tax bill on December 4, “It is the end of the world! The debate in health care is like death! This is Armageddon!” Initial updates of the economic Armageddon can be found here, here, and here.

But it just won’t stop!

American and Southwest said Tuesday that they will pay employees bonuses of $1,000 each, a gesture that American said would cost $130 million.

Southwest also said that it exercised options to buy more new jets from Boeing while delaying orders for some others.

Armaggedon continues to roll through the banking community. . .

Tuesday, U.S. Bank became the latest bank to take similar action in the wake of the tax bill’s passage.

U.S. Bancorp, the parent company of U.S. Bank, announced Tuesday that it is handing out a $1,000 bonus to nearly 60,000 employees. The bank also plans to increase its minimum wage for all hourly employees to $15 per hour.

Additionally, the bank will be making “enhancements” to its employees’ health care options, effective for the 2019 enrollment period.

“We believe that tax reform is positive for the U.S. economy because it provides an immediate opportunity to benefit our employees, our communities and our customers,” Andy Cecere, president and chief executive officer, U.S. Bancorp, said.

But it’s just banks and airlines, right? No! Armageddon spreads to insurers!

Columbus-based supplemental insurer Aflac that it will increase investment in its U.S. operations and employees by $250 million over the next three to five years due to the tax reform law.

Specifically, Aflac workers will see the the company’s 401(k) match rise from 50 percent to 100 percent on the first 4 percent of employee contributions, with a $500 one-time contribution going to each staffer’s 401(k) plan. The firm, well known for its comical Aflac duck advertisements, also plans to offer certain hospital and accident insurance products to employees at no charge.

It’s spreading to air conditioning manufacturers!

Aaon Inc., which manufactures air conditioning units at a plant in Longview, said Tuesday that it will give $1,000 bonuses to all employees, excluding officers, in recognition of the federal tax overhaul.

And fuel companies! And smokeless tobacco companies!

When will this “Armageddon” end?

The Case For, and Against, Romney for U.S. Senate

Should Mitt Romney be the next U.S. senator from Utah?

The Salt Lake Tribune, this morning:

One Romney confidant, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, said Tuesday was “[retiring Senator] Orrin [Hatch]’s day” and the Romney circle didn’t want to intrude on that.

But the trajectory seems set.

“We all know the direction this is going,” said the Romney insider. “And I think we’ll know within the next couple of weeks definitively.”

I love the guy, and I believe the country’s decision to reelect Barack Obama instead of electing Romney will rank as one of the electorate’s worst mistakes. I think a good portion or perhaps all of the business world’s confidence and optimism that we’ve enjoyed in the past year could have started in 2013 if the electorate had made a different decision. I suspect a President Romney would have responded to the rise of ISIS dramatically differently, would never have pursued a magic-beans deal with Iran, would have enforced a “red line” on chemical weapons in Syria, spat hot fire at the first inkling of the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs . . . 

No doubt, Mitt Romney has all of the skills and intellect to make a great senator. He knows the issues in great detail, studies them, analyzes them — it’s what he’s done professionally his entire life. He’s got deep-rooted principles but aims to be pragmatic and to reach the best compromise possible. His passions never get the best of him, he’s calm, polite, respectful but direct. His humor is G-rated, and when he does mock, he makes fun of himself — fighting boxer Evander Holyfield in an event for charity.

During the 2012 campaign he was mocked for being old-fashioned, a throwback, out of date with modern sensibilities. That strikes me as an enormous compliment. Our political world would be better with more Mitt Romneys and fewer bomb-throwers who want a television contract with Fox News. His presence in the U.S. Senate could make our politics more respectful, more focused on problem-solving, and just plain better.

With all of that having been said . . . 

If elected, Romney would instantly become perceived as “the leader of the Republican opposition” to Trump, and I’m not sure that’s such a good idea for the cause of conservatism. Fairly or not, Romney is the man who took on a flawed incumbent Democratic president and came up short. He turns 71 on March 12. No doubt he’s in fine physical and mental health, but he is not the future of the Republican party or the conservative cause.

It’s Utah. There are probably bright, driven, accomplished, scandal-free conservative Republicans growing on trees out there. If Romney jumps in, is there some other great conservative rising star whose debut on the national stage will be delayed as a result?

Romney’s relationship with Trump is complicated at best. In early March 2016, Romney gave a highly-publicized speech about Trump, ripping the then-frontrunner to pieces from top to bottom, denouncing his economic policies, his foreign policies, and his character. It had little to no effect on Trump’s ascendance. Trump later interviewed Romney to be secretary of State, although he may very well have only asked Romney to be considered just so that he could reject him.

Utah voters may not want their junior senator to be the leader of the Republican Resistance. No doubt the departing Senator Orrin Hatch and Trump have plenty of ideological and personal differences, but they worked well enough together and Trump called him “a friend” in his statement about the senator’s retirement yesterday. No doubt, plenty of Utah voters disapprove of Trump or regard him warily, but he still won the state by 17 points. The anti-Trump conservative candidate, Evan McMullin — a Provo-born, Brigham-Young-graduate Mormon — won just 21 percent.

One of the Most Enabling Sentences Ever Put Into Print

During the brief but long-overdue reevaluation of Bill Clinton’s behavior while in office last autumn, I vaguely remembered a book by James Carville from around that time that argued loyalty to Clinton was the right virtue, and that those who rebuked the president for his actions with Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, and Kathleen Willey had committed some sort of morally-repulsive betrayal.

I tracked down a copy of the book and found I had recollected it pretty accurately. James Carville’s Stickin’: The Case for Loyalty is a pretty remarkable artifact of a time when people were unafraid to argue that absolute devotion to a president, no matter how bad his actions, was morally right and that speaking out against unethical and illegal behavior represented true villainy.

But there was one key quote — repeated twice — that really jumped out at me: “In my world, you don’t abandon a guy over sex. You stick with him.”

As I wrote today on NRO, Carville eases his difficult argument by pretending that Jones, Willey, and Broaddrick don’t exist. But still there’s a certain unnerving implication of Carville’s flatly-stated principle, contending that none of us are right to object to the president of the United States carrying on an affair with an unpaid intern and then asking his powerful friend Vernon Jordan to help set her up with lucrative job opportunities. All of the White House interns who didn’t flash a thong at the president didn’t get that kind of career assistance.

Yes, we’re all flawed human beings, all capable of succumbing to sexual temptation, and the allure of sexual desire tends to short-circuit our good judgment. It’s because this is such an easy temptation that we have to be particularly careful, and fear of a negative consequence helps to reinforce codes of conduct. Yes, a consensual affair with in an intern is different from Harvey Weinstein’s serial sexual predation, but in both cases, both men knew they could indulge their impulses to the fullest, in part because the men around them would not confront them or stop them. It’s never easy to confront a friend or co-worker when you think they’re doing something wrong, and it’s extremely difficult to confront a boss. But at the very least, we’re not supposed to actively justify and facilitate someone else’s bad behavior.

“You don’t abandon a guy over sex” has got to be one of the most enabling sentences ever put into print.

ADDENDA: Paul Musgrave assesses the president: “He has no grand strategy, just a profound need to demonstrate that he is a winner, a dealmaker and an influence wielder. And having suffered few consequences of importance to him for his behavior so far in his short political career, he recognizes few limits to his whims. He will ignore his critics and follow the applause he receives for his reckless behavior as far as he can.”

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