Barbara Boxer

Mickey Kaus on How Unions Killed the Democrats, Immigration, New Media, & Bringing the Velvet Underground to Beverly Hills High


Oh yeah, and his quixotic Senate bid against incumbent Barbara Boxer.

The Kaus family was deeply intertwined with California politics and culture long before journalist/blogger Mickey Kaus started his longshot bid to unseat Sen. Barbara Boxer in the 2010 Democratic primary.

Mickey's father, the Viennese-born Otto Kaus, was a well-respected jurist who sat on the California Supreme Court from 1981 to 1985. His brother Stephen is a prominent Bay Area civil-litigation attorney and a commentator for The Huffington Post. Mickey's maternal grandmother, Dorothy Huttenback, was a musical prodigy who headed up the Los Angeles Music Guild for three decades, and Dorothy's son Robert served as chancellor of the University of California at Santa Barbara. Both sides of the family were part of the historic wave of German-speaking Jews who fled the Nazis for Southern California in and around the 1930s, injecting a distinctive, semi-alienated yet intensely patriotic intellectual style to the Golden State's civic conversation.

Mickey Kaus' position within the national public policy discussion has always been that of a tweak-your-own-side contrarian. He was part of the group of writers at the left-of-center Washington Monthly in the 1980s who hatched what they called "neoliberalism"—a qualified rejection of interest-group politics and Keynesian economics in favor of policies intended to harness rather than oppose market forces. That frame led him to The End of Equality, a seminal 1992 book that stressed opportunities over outcomes and took on the liberal sacred cow of welfare. Kaus certainly hadn't abandoned the liberal fold—among other things, the book called for a federal jobs program, universal health coverage, and compulsory national service—but he wasn't an ordinary Democrat either.

By the end of the 1990s Kaus' name was synonymous with political blogging. He had launched one of the first and most influential journalist blogs, Kausfiles, which for most of its lifespan has been published by Slate. In 2005 he helped kick-start the video debate site with his friend and frequent sparring partner Robert Wright. There and elsewhere, Kaus has distanced himself from his own Democratic Party on unionism, health care reform, public sector pensions, and especially immigration.

In 2010 Kaus decided to put his money where his mouth is and run against Boxer, the powerful three-term senator, as a way to advance the discussion about modern Democratic priorities. Needless to say, Kaus has no chance of unseating Boxer in the California primary coming on June 8. Yet his insights on new media, unions, and politics more broadly are well worth hearing. And his story about bringing the Velvet Underground to perform at Beverly Hills High in the '60s is not to be missed. Editor Nick Gillespie spoke with Kaus in May, just after Arizona passed a controversial law about checking the immigration status of anyone who comes into contact with law enforcement.

About 40 minutes. Shot by Dan Hayes and Meredith Bragg; edited by Bragg. Go to for downloadable versions.

NEXT: Mickey Kaus on Unions, Immigration, New Media & Bringing The Velvet Underground to Beverly Hills High

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  1. The day that dumb bitch Boxer is ousted from Congress is the day I do an impromptu dance of joy.

    Unbelievable, how stupid she is.

    1. She’s not the dumbest, though. That would probably be Patty Murray (D-WA). Remember that shortly after 9/11, she explained that bin Laden was popular in Afghanistan because he “built day-care centers.” You know, so all those Afghan women have places to stash the kids before they drive off to their jobs.

      Kaus is one of my favorite Democrats.

      1. The two things I really like about Kaus are 1) his willingness to piss off people sitting on his side of the table and 2) the complete absence of smugness. Unlike most liberal opinion writers, Kaus is willing to argue points straightforwardly without seeming smug and without resorting to hysterics or emotional appeals.
        Hopefully, Boxer will be caught selling crack to fund her campaign; That might increase the odds of Kaus winning the primary to 1 in 10000.

        1. Indeed. He’s a good writer, an interesting thinker not beholden to any party line, and seems like a nice guy.

  2. It’s painful to listen to. Nick sucks as an interviewer – he would let his guest to complete a single f-n sentence. It’s hard to tell at times who is being interviewed here.

    1. Seriously. Asking another (usually snide) question while your interviewee is answering your previous question is just bad form. Nick seemed like O’Reilly on downers.

    2. yeah, parts sounded like an interrogation.

    3. Totally agree (and I love Nick’s work on Reason TV). Interviewing really is a skill.

  3. Velvets story starts at 32:48.


  4. The only thing “Unions” are good for is sucking the life blood out of a company!


  5. Thank you Nick, for nailing him on the reconquista! AWESOME!

  6. It’s an interesting video, and Kaus gets alot of time to air his views; it’s just that Nick treats it a more like a conversation or debate than an interview.

  7. I think that Gillespie’s kids should be required to attend schools dominated by non-English speakers. Many families in California have had to remove their kids from the public schools to avoid having their children “taught” in Spanish for most of the day. Let his family live the dream. He also claims that illegals are not eligible for welfare and other programs. This is just diversionary bullshit, since the children that they have while here illegally are, and they currently receive more than 25 percent of all welfare allocations made by the state of California.

    Gillespie also assumes that the South American social and political structures – which he blames for the current state of places like Rio – will not take hold here as unlimited numbers of third world immigrants flood our cities. He is fucking delusional.

    When Kaus responds that half of Mexico would move here and then questions whether Mexicans are assimilating, Gillespie goes into complete denial. Perhaps, he should familiarize himself with the results of this Zogby poll and others that lay waste his stupid assumptions.

    And why is Gillespie so concerned about illegals becoming citizens? If you do not believe in borders, then how can you believe in “citizenship”? Why is it that the “citizen-of-the-world” crowd never wants to exercise their “rights” in places like Myanmar or Liberia? These pro-illegal, borders-are-imaginary morons have to be more consistent in their dogma.

    Kaus destroys Gillespie’s naive arguments at every level.

    1. I think that Gillespie’s kids should be required to attend schools dominated by non-English speakers. Many families in California have had to remove their kids from the public schools to avoid having their children “taught” in Spanish for most of the day.

      Wouldn’t this be a good case to introduce education reform and get the government decoupled from the monopoly on education?

      No, just keep the Mexicans out.

    2. Wow, I can’t believe you actually linked to that Zogby poll and claimed it supported your point of view. That’s a poll of Mexicans WHO LIVE IN MEXICO. Yes, unsurprisingly, people in Mexico think that Mexican-Americans should give their first loyalty to Mexico.

      1. Wow, I cannot believe how completely brain dead you are. Where do you think Mexican immigrants come from, Mars?

        Here’s the money quote:

        “(It) tells us what kind of society Mexican immigrants came out of, what the expectation is for those who go here.”

        Further, the poll showed that if illegals were given amnesty that Mexicans – WHO LIVE IN MEXICO – would be more likely to emmigrate:

        In fact, 56.2 percent of respondents did indeed answer “more likely” when asked, “If the U.S. gave permanent legal status to undocumented immigrants (migrantes indocumentados), do you think it would make your friends and family members more likely or less likely to go to the U.S. as indocumentados, or would it make no difference?”

        Get it?

  8. and Keynesian economics in favor of policies intended to harness rather than oppose market forces.

    While this looks good on paper, I’m not sure the results are necessarily any better.

    I’ve found that a government that acts like a business tends to grow like a business, but when times get tough, still shrinks like a government.

  9. It’s a lie that Mexican kids speak on average worse English than other kids, if the entire family immigrates, they generally have strong family structures and excel in public schools. The bilingual education movement hurt Latino education structures. Kaus’s argument is contradictory, he attacks unions which have raised poorly educated American’s wages and attacks immigration because it lowers poorly educated American’s wages. Competition is good. Everyone should be subjected to the same competitive pressures. In the US I pay too much to get my car repaired as compared to Latin America, I pay too much to have my kids cared for and pay too much to have my lawn mowed. We need more immigrants. They get higher wages, and whoever gets shut out well study harder and if you can’t take it, earn less. I don’t weep for losers, end of story.

    1. It’s not contradiction, it’s a matter of balance. Yes, unions raise wages, but if they raise them too much, they destroy industries (see Detroit) and bankrupt government (see everywhere). Yes, immigration lowers wages, which has some positive effects but also some clearly negative ones. In both cases, it’s possible to have too much.

  10. One issue that is not addressed regarding unskilled labor: (1) as other nations become developed, there will be less pressure for their unskilled laborers to move to the U.S. (2) technological changes will make most unskilled labor obsolete anyway, so the unskilled will soon be (a) unemployable, and (b) materially better off anyway, because there will be such an abundance of wealth.

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