Thursday, April 28, 2011

There was a nice lady named Kate,
who for years was willing to wait,
so that she could be seen,
as prince William's young queen,
though the wedding some people did hate.


Paul Ryan's sophistry:

Unfortunately, the reporters out there are not mathematically sharp enough to meaningfully critique Paul Ryan when he spins his policies. For instance, here he is on CBS: (emp add)
[CBS' Nancy Cordes pointed out that Ryan's budget calls for a huge reduction in top tax rates]

Q: Well, 35 to 25 percent is a big cut.

RYAN: But, in exchange for losing their tax shelters. So, we're saying, we call it revenue neutral tax reform. ... So we're saying, in exchange for losing their tax shelters, the wealthy and corporations get no tax shelters, we lower everybody's tax rates so we have a better economy. So we have better economic growth. So we don't tax our producers more than our foreign competitors tax theirs. So nobody's talking about cutting taxes for the rich. We're talking about reforming the tax code, cleaning it up, keeping revenues where they are. ...
Here's the problem:

revenue neutral - that means in this case that the total revenue from everybody stays the same
no tax shelters - that means eliminating deductions
lower tax rates - that means the rate applied after deductions (if any) are applied

It all sounds unthreatening, perhaps even attractive, but it hides a potential screwing of the middle class and big rewards for the rich. And in Ryan's plan it isn't potential, it's real.

The key is "rates" and "deductions". The basic formula is
If you lower the RATE and reduce the DEDUCTIONS, what's the net result? It depends on what the before and after figures are, but you can easily construct two formulas - one for the rich and one for everybody else - that has the rich paying less, everyone else paying more, with the total unchanged ("revenue neutral"). That's what Ryan's plan does, but not too many people are aware of that fact. He should be called out on it.

As far as Ryan's "nobody's talking about cutting taxes for the rich", that's because talking about it would be political poison. But it's what his plan does.

CODA: There's also the issue of Ryan not specifying what deductions he'd reduce or phase out, making it more likely that his budget would make the debt even worse, but let's put that aside for now.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Conservapedia on Obama's birthplace:

They've finally made the change. Good to see them keeping up to date on the issue.

From (25 August 2010 - this was the long-standing opening sentence)
Barack Hussein Obama II (birth name Barry Soetoro,allegedly born in Honolulu August 4, 1961)
To (26 April 2011 - yesterday)
Barack Hussein Obama II (aka Barry Soetoro, said to have been born in Honolulu August 4, 1961)
To (27 April 2011 - today)
Barack Hussein Obama II (aka Barry Soetoro, born in Honolulu August 4, 1961)
Also, check out this vandalism.


About that birth certificate released today:

People are too credulous. It could be a forgery. All we've been hearing are various attestations from officials, but they could be lying. There is no proof that it really is Obama's birth certificate. Solid proof would be something in the form of a gigantic reel of film that starts with Obama popping out of his mom, after which the doctors and administrators sign the document, and then the camera stays focused on the piece of paper for 50 years to insure that it hasn't been tampered with.

Absent such proof, we cannot be sure the birth certificate is genuine.

This argument also applies to evolution. We have no footage of animals reproducing over the span of a million years until a different species is observed.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Charles Krauthammer unfair statement:

In discussing Donald Trump's recent political moves, he wrote: (emp add)
Donald Trump: He’s not a candidate, he’s a spectacle. He’s also not a conservative. With a wink and a smile, Muhammad Ali showed that self-promoting obnoxiousness could be charming. Trump shows that it can be merely vulgar. A provocateur and a clown, the Republicans’ Al Sharpton. The Lions have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl.
As a long time - and long suffering - fan of the Detroit Lions, I must protest this unfair characterization of the team as the longest of long shots (i.e. "no chance"). Sure, they had an 0-16 season, but that was two years ago. They are much better now. Saying that Trump's chance of becoming president is less than the Lion's winning the Super Bowl means that it could happen.



Upping the crazy:

This is insane: (emp add)
Trump: How did Obama get into the Ivy League?

Donald Trump on Monday suggested he had broadened the scope of his investigation regarding President Obama's background, arguing that - in addition to making inquiries into Mr. Obama's citizenship - he was "looking into" the president's college career.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Trump alleged that Mr. Obama had been "a terrible student," and wondered how he could have been accepted to prestigious schools like Columbia and Harvard Universities.

"I heard he was a terrible student, terrible," Trump told the AP. "How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard? I'm thinking about it, I'm certainly looking into it. Let him show his records."

Mr. Obama received an undergraduate degree in political science from Columbia University in 1983, after transferring from Occidental College in 1981. He went on to study law at Harvard Law School , where he was named the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. He graduated magna cum laude in 1991.

Trump provided no evidence of Mr. Obama's "terrible" marks, but did offer the fact that "I have friends who have smart sons with great marks, great boards, great everything and they can't get into Harvard."

"We don't know a thing about this guy," Trump said. "There are a lot of questions that are unanswered about our president."
"I heard" and "I have friends who" are the mist lightweight elements in an argument that you can use. What a jerk.


Monday, April 25, 2011

What the ...?

Everybody has been having a good laugh over this post by Joe Klein:
Sullivan’s Truth

Andrew Sullivan is my friend. I admire many things about him, but given the superficialities of blog life, I sometimes forget just how fabulously profound he can be. This, on Good Friday, is a reminder.
Which refers to Sullivan's A "Rigorous" Theology. But try making sense of it. Take this passage, for instance: (emp add)
... the ultimate test of religion for a non-atheist is not: is this or that religion useful? Or even: is it necessary?

It is, rather: is it true? (...)

My own view is that if Christianity is a useful lie then it should be abandoned by thinking people. If being a Christian requires one to believe literally that the world was created de novo 6,000 years ago, or that our species literally emerged one day from an actual garden of Eden, then I am not a Christian. It's my view that if something is not true, it cannot be countermanded by a God who is Truth itself. And so a sincere modern believer has no choice but to make distinctions between kinds of truths - metaphorical, spiritual ones and empirical, literal ones.

We cannot deny Darwin without also denying God, to put it provocatively, since God cannot be in contravention of Truth.
Even though Sullivan gives passing note to the realities of oral traditions he subsequently wastes time on differences in details between the Gospels - which may explain why his post is confusing. Or maybe it allows him to evade hard questions about his faith. For instance, he writes:
the Bible tells us all sorts of contradictory things: Jesus is tangibly physically resurrected; he is strangely altered; those close to him can see him after his death and yet not recognize him at all on the road to Emmaus. These cannot all be literally true and yet they all point to a mystery at the core of our faith: He is risen.
A simpler explanation for all the conflicting stories is that none of them are accurate. Sullivan won't go near that, and instead, takes refuge in the safety of "mystery" which is basically an evasion.

But let's get back to the Truth business. God is presumably an agent of some sort. Truth is, at best, a collection of true statements (however you want to determine them - via empiricism or revelation or Harry Potter books). But to write, as Sullivan does, about an agent that IS a collection of statements is bizarre. It doesn't parse. But that doesn't stop Sullivan. Towards the end he writes:
Does a force exist that is behind everything we are and see and know? Is that force benign? Does that force love us? Was the only way that truth could be revealed was by God becoming man and sacrificing himself to show us the only way to save ourselves?

... I say yes to these questions ...
So now we have a God who is Truth and "a force". For someone who writes a lot about truth, where is the empirical support for this "force". So far, physics hasn't found it - or needed to.

Anyway, Joe Klein thought it was really great stuff. Profound. Go figure.


Ayn Rand philosophy = zero compassion = today's crop of Republicans:

The trend of the last 15 ears within the Republican party has been an embrace of Ayn Rand's philosophy. It's harsh, at variance with a traditional conservative values, and probably not good politics, as David Frum suggests:
I strongly suspect that today’s Ayn Rand moment will end in frustration or worse for Republicans.
And he cites Irving Kristol on the welfare state:
The idea of a welfare state is perfectly consistent with a conservative political philosophy – as Bismarck knew, a hundred years ago. In our urbanized, industrialized, highly mobile society, people need governmental action of some kind… they need such assistance; they demand it; they will get it.
For unknown reasons, there has been an eruption of posts about Ayn Rand and the Republicans in the last month. Here are a few:The last two are Christian critiques of Rand. Which kind of tie in with a Salon article, The Democrats' secret budget weapon: Jesus.

Also, Jonathan Chait has been writing about Ayn Rand a lot. In any event, something is happening out there. My guess is that this commentary about Ayn Rand is a way to make sense of stories of Republicans wanting to eliminate child labor laws or demands that foster children only purchase second-hand clothes. Those actions can be best described as coming from people with zero compassion. And that's exactly what Ayn Rand championed.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ayn Rand and the Republicans:

Think Progress has a special report, The Truth About GOP Hero Ayn Rand, which is pretty good. Of interest was this tidbit:
The cultural capstone to this resurgence arrived last week with the release of a filmed adaptation of the first third of Atlas Shrugged, independently financed by a wealthy devotee of Rand's work and pitched explicitly at the Tea Party demographic. FreedomWorks, one of the central organizations in that movement, rolled out a massive campaign to encourage audience attendance and to push the film into as many theaters as possible. The 2011 CPAC conference held the world premiere of Atlas Shrugged's trailer, and the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation hosted an advanced screening of the film.
The Heritage Foundation and Ayn Rand? The Heritage Foundation - most recently noted for fantasy budget numbers - says this on their About page:
Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institution—a think tank—whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.

We believe the principles and ideas of the American Founding are worth conserving and renewing.
Ayn Rand's philosophy is incompatible with "traditional America values" or the "ideas of the American Founding".

UPDATE: For more on Ayn Rand, with a focus on Alan Greenspan's connection, there is a lengthy essay, When Alan Met Ayn: "Atlas Shrugged" And Our Tanked Economy.


The Republican id is out on display:

Who should they go after, widows or orphans? Let's start with the latter.

In Michigan:
Foster children would be allowed to get clothing only from second hand stores

Under a new budget proposal from State Sen. Bruce Casswell, children in the state’s foster care system would be allowed to purchase clothing only in used clothing stores.

Casswell, a Republican representing Branch, Hillsdale, Lenawee and St. Joseph counties, made the proposal this week, reports Michigan Public Radio.

His explanation?

“I never had anything new,” Caswell says. “I got all the hand-me-downs. And my dad, he did a lot of shopping at the Salvation Army, and his comment was — and quite frankly it’s true — once you’re out of the store and you walk down the street, nobody knows where you bought your clothes.”

Under his plan, foster children would receive gift cards that could only be used at places like the Salvation Army, Goodwill and other second hand clothing stores.

The plan was knocked by the Michigan League for Human Services. Gilda Jacobs, executive director of the group, had this to say:

“Honestly, I was flabbergasted,” Jacobs says. “I really couldn’t believe this. Because I think, gosh, is this where we’ve gone in this state? I think that there’s the whole issue of dignity. You’re saying to somebody, you don’t deserve to go in and buy a new pair of gym shoes. You know, for a lot of foster kids, they already have so much stacked against them.”

Casswell says the plan will save the state money, though it isn’t clear how much the state spends on clothing for foster children or how much could be saved this way.
It's not just one guy:
In the hallowed halls of the Michigan state Capitol this week, one of the biggest debates has been over slashing a program that gives clothes to orphans.

About 160,000 kids wouldn't receive their back-to-school clothing allowance under the Department of Human Services (DHS) budget passed by a House subcommittee. That saves $9.9 million (which will go a long way to pay for the $1.2 billion tax break we're handing businesses).

Chair Dave Agema (R-Grandville) -- best known for skipping the crucial 2007 tax hike votes to obliterate sheep with a shotgun in Siberia -- suggested that the money isn't being spent on clothes anyway by those greedy urchins.

"I think the hardship is negligible,” he shrugged.

Over in the Senate, a subcommittee decided to make kiddies buy their wares at thrift stores ...
This is nothing more than kicking people when they are down. Today it's foster kids. Tomorrow, perhaps the physically disabled will be required to purchase wheelchairs from second hand stores. And if there are none available, be forced to make do with a three-foot square piece of plywood and four casters.

By the way, these proposals for foster children aren't really about money, despite what they say. The actions are markers, political merit-badges to demonstrate how flinty they are. Austerity for them is a virtue, and what better way to demonstrate it than this?


Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday through Easter Sunday:

In Texas:
Thursday, April 21, 2011 • Austin, Texas • Proclamation


WHEREAS, the state of Texas is in the midst of an exceptional drought, with some parts of the state receiving no significant rainfall for almost three months, matching rainfall deficit records dating back to the 1930s; and

WHEREAS, a combination of higher than normal temperatures, low precipitation and low relative humidity has caused an extreme fire danger over most of the State, sparking more than 8,000 wildfires which have cost several lives, engulfed more than 1.8 million acres of land and destroyed almost 400 homes, causing me to issue an ongoing disaster declaration since December of last year; and

WHEREAS, these dire conditions have caused agricultural crops to fail, lake and reservoir levels to fall and cattle and livestock to struggle under intense stress, imposing a tremendous financial and emotional toll on our land and our people; and

WHEREAS, throughout our history, both as a state and as individuals, Texans have been strengthened, assured and lifted up through prayer; it seems right and fitting that the people of Texas should join together in prayer to humbly seek an end to this devastating drought and these dangerous wildfires;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, RICK PERRY, Governor of Texas, under the authority vested in me by the Constitution and Statutes of the State of Texas, do hereby proclaim the three-day period from Friday, April 22, 2011, to Sunday, April 24, 2011, as Days of Prayer for Rain in the State of Texas. I urge Texans of all faiths and traditions to offer prayers on that day for the healing of our land, the rebuilding of our communities and the restoration of our normal way of life.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto signed my name and have officially caused the Seal of State to be affixed at my Office in the City of Austin, Texas, this the 21st day of April, 2011.

Governor of Texas
Expect more of these proclamations as global warming continues apace.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

This is funny:

Political ad
from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

In the third segment, note the pink fuzzy handcuffs and the look of dismay.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Site note:

Due to computer failure, blogging will be light for a while.

However, I've gotta comment on this: Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 has - amazingly - a user interface similar to that of Google's Chrome browser, which sucks big time.

It used to be that for both MSIE and FireFox, you'd right-click on a link and you'd get the following list:
Open new window
Open new tab

And Chrome was the oddball with
Open new tab
Open new window

Well, Microsoft's MSIE9 now does it the Chrome way. That is so lame.

Also, Chrome didn't have a status line at the bottom, where, if you hover over a link, you'd see the full URL. Instead, Chrome has an overlay at the bottom of the screen which initially presents about 60 characters of the URL. If it's a longer URL, then you have to wait a second for it to fill out. That's crappy. But what does MSIE9 do? It doesn't even expand. So good luck finding out if the link is to a pdf file, or something else.

In addition, if you want to get to a favorite site, MSIE9 has you click on the star, which presents a pane with favorites in one tab, but if your favorite is inside a collection of links (aka a folder of sorts), you have to click to expose the sub-section. The favorites in Firefox fly out on-hover. This extra clicking is what Microsoft is into these days. Anybody who has worked with the infamous "ribbon" on Microsoft Office knows about that (constantly having to click the HOME tab). That's progress for you.

Finally, neither Chrome nor MSIE9 now support the HTML TITLE tag. Good work, boys!

Who the hell thought any of these things were improvements? How does this garbage get past Q/A?

UPDATE: Wow. Just freaking wow. Using MSIE9, you cannot publish on blogger. Clicking the PUBLISH POST button just displays javascript:void(), but nothing happens after that. (The SAVE NOW button seems to work, however.) So to publichs this post, I had to login via Firefox. Yaa!


Friday, April 15, 2011

David Brooks has lost it:

First he calls Paul Ryan's budget "the standard of seriousness". Now he demonstrates his ignorance of several health care issues, as Dean Baker makes clear.

This Paul Ryan fellow has accomplished quite a lot in recent days. He has lured some closet hard-right-conservatives out of the closet as they praise him for being a budget wunderkind and ignoring the radical change that Ryan's proposals would initiate.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Obama speech on the deficit:

Obama has chosen to use Fabian tactics against the Republicans. Using time as a weapon to diminish the (false) sense of urgency, get our military obligations scaled down, and most important of all, to allow the economy to recover.

Many on the left will experience a "relief reaction", and warm up to Obama. But why did everyone have to be on pins and needles for months? The president is a good politician and has definitely manipulated his base - something which was evident today.


Jonathan Chait makes fun of Tom Freidman:



Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Get ready:

For a huge eruption on the Democratic left in reaction to Obama's deficit-reduction speech on Wednesday. At least that's what appears to be most likely, if he touts Simpson-Bowles as anything reasonable. On the other hand, Obama has shown an ability to fudge issues to the point where everybody ends up grumbling, but not in open revolt.

That said, this does not look like smart politics. Obama could have taken on the Ryan plan just as it is, without presenting an alternative but to show the impact Republican policies would have on most citizens. Republicans constantly pound on Obama and the Democrats for this or that, often without having an alternative of their own. And they reap political benefits.

But Obama seems determined to not be a political president, in the sense of making any tactical moves to help his part. That's pretty clear now after over two years of watching the guy.

UPDATE: Jonathan Chait has similar thoughts in Obama Should Hold Off On A Deficit Deal

UPDATE2: David Leonhardt also has similar thoughts in Do-Nothing Congress as a Cure

Just for the record, this blog was the first to put the idea out there that Obama doesn't have to come up with a debt plan right now.


Friday, April 08, 2011

The old switcheroo:

David Brooks, responding (sort of) to the hail of criticism of Paul Ryan's budget plan, tries to make the debate about something else:
The best thing about the long-term budget proposal from Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, is that it forces Americans to confront the implications of their choices. If voters want taxes that amount to roughly 18 percent of G.D.P., then they are going to have to accept a government that looks roughly like what Ryan is describing.

The Democrats are on defense because they are unwilling to ask voters to confront the implications of their choices. Democrats seem to believe that most Americans want to preserve the 20th-century welfare state programs. But they are unwilling to ask voters to pay for them, and they are unwilling to describe the tax increases that would be required to cover their exploding future costs.
Sorry, but the Ryan budget was primarily supposed to address the debt, which it fails to do because the program cuts are used to enable further tax cuts on the rich.

Brooks on Monday:
Over the past few weeks, a number of groups, including the ex-chairmen of the Council of Economic Advisers and 64 prominent budget experts, have issued letters arguing that the debt situation is so dire that doing nothing is not a survivable option. What they lacked was courageous political leadership — a powerful elected official willing to issue a proposal, willing to take a stand, willing to face the political perils.

The country lacked that leadership until today. Today, Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, is scheduled to release the most comprehensive and most courageous budget reform proposal any of us have seen in our lifetimes.
Brooks on Friday:
No mention of Ryan's plan regarding the debt! Instead, this:
... a bipartisan budget deal should ... slow the growth in health care benefits now and dedicate that money to paying down the debt and investing in the young.
Which Ryan's plan doesn't do at all.
What everybody has been squawking about for months has been the debt (two commissions, remember?). But Brooks, in defending Ryan, would have you believe that the hot topic of recent months has been about the size of government. He's trying to switch the topic. Krugman:
... has anybody besides Bruce Bartlett noticed that Ryan still hasn’t gotten an independent estimate of the revenue losses from his tax plan? Last summer I pointed out that he was getting a free pass on tax cuts that appeared likely to lose a lot of revenue; his defenders came up with all sorts of excuses about how he couldn’t get anyone to do a proper estimate. ...

The truth is that his plan would almost surely lead to a large rise in the deficit.
As far as voters caring about "taxes that amount to roughly 18 percent of G.D.P.", that's nonsense. Nobody thinks that way. They care about their own taxes. Is 18 percent of G.D.P. good or bad? Who knows? But it conveniently masks whatever rate is being paid by the rich by lumping everybody together - a kind of flat-tax sensibility that Brooks no doubt approves of.


Thursday, April 07, 2011

What would you do?

If you've ever benefited from seat belts or air bags, you'd probably not call for the repeal of laws mandating their installation.

With that in mind, here's a factoid from Esquire:
He is a lifelong adherent to the doctrines of Ayn Rand ...

Paul Ryan is a thoroughgoing fraud. He went through high school and most of college on Social Security survivor benefits after his father's death.
How does someone who benefited from a government social insurance program turn around and embrace the exact opposite, as exemplified by Ayn Rand's philosophy?


Who is that guy?

Did you see that wide-eyed fellow standing behind Paul Ryan when he announced the budget plan?

Turns out he's James Lankford (R - Ok), member of the Budget Committee.
From 1996-2009 he was the student ministries and evangelism specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, and was director of the Falls Creek youth programing at the Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center in Davis, Oklahoma.

He attended the University of Texas, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education. He then attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and received a master’s degree in Divinity.


Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The "cruel" meme:

It's out there. Andrew Sullivan, writing in favor of the Ryan budget:
As for the cruelty argument, the truth is: the past fiscal recklessness makes some cruelty a mathematical necessity.
Jonathan Chait, writing against:
The new GOP budget unveiled by Paul Ryan is a wildly cruel document.
UPDATE: Annie Lowrey in Slate, discussing alternatives to Ryan:
The fiscally responsible choice is to raise taxes while also reforming entitlements, as any of the half-dozen more feasible and less cruel plans floating around do.
UPDATE 2: Paul Krugman:
this plan isn’t remotely serious; on the contrary, it’s ludicrous.

And it’s also cruel.


Sullivan vs. Kain:

Andrew Sullivan, still in thrall with the atmosphere surrounding the Ryan budget plan writes:
... past fiscal recklessness makes some cruelty a mathematical necessity ...

... we simply cannot tax our way out of this ...
The math doesn't work.
E.D. Kain responds:
... it would be more fun if Andrew showed his work. What math are we referring to?

As I’ve noted previously, you can do a combination of tax increases (not too much, just nudge them back up to Clinton-era rates) and defense cuts and you don’t even have to voucherize Medicare or implement a millionaire’s tax and just like that you have yourself back on the right fiscal trajectory through 2030. (...)

A lot of people are saying things like “The ball is in Obama’s court” and what-have-you. The problem is that the ball has never really left the Republican court. Until Republicans agree to tax increases, why should Democrats agree to spending cuts? Why should Democrats take Republicans seriously at all if Republicans are completely unwilling to repeal the Bush tax cuts?
Just guessing here, but I suspect that Sullivan was never good at math. He rarely ever puts out numbers in his posts. He's gifted with words, but quantitative stuff doesn't engage him.


David Frum is making sense:

When reviewing the Ryan budget plan. Frum has been off the reservation for some time now, and almost sounds like a Canadian socialist, or something.
The real message of the Ryan plan is: Upper-income tax cuts now; spending cuts for the poor now; more deficits now; spending cuts for middle-income people much later; spending cuts for today’s elderly, never.

Jobs first, deficit later is actually the right timing of priorities. But the upper-income tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 markedly failed to translate into higher incomes for ordinary Americans. The Ryan plan offers no reason to hope that another round of the same medicine will deliver better results.

As politics, the message is even worse than the economics. Cut Medicaid and Medicare to fund tax cuts? Isn’t that the issue that returned Bill Clinton to the White House in 1996? Don’t all the polls show that Medicare and even Medicaid are popular, and that more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans are not? Isn’t this a formula for a GOP bloodbath in 2012? And if the plan did somehow become law, is it not a formula for an economy in the 2010s that will underperform for most people in the same way that the economy of the 2000s underperformed for most people?


Springtime for Hitler:




In the New York Times editorial that is critical of Paul Ryan's budget proposal, we read:
The blueprint does not call for any specific changes to Social Security, but, without explanation, it assumes a reduction of $1 trillion over 10 years in the program’s surplus. That would weaken the program by hastening the insolvency of Social Security.
What is that? A plan to dishonor $1 trillion in bonds held by the Social Security Trust? It will be worthwhile to examine this part of Ryan's proposal.


Wisconsin Supreme Court judicial race:

Extremely close. Which, considering the recent turmoil following governor Walker's actions (and that of the Republican-held state senate and assembly), is rather dispiriting.


Paul Ryan's vision:

David Brooks (who likes it): (emp add)
The Ryan budget will put all future arguments in the proper context: The current welfare state is simply unsustainable and anybody who is serious, on left or right, has to have a new vision of the social contract.
Jonathan Cohn (who doesn't): (emp add)
If you can get past the fuzzy math and sheer indifference to the poor, it's possible to discern a coherent conceit in the Ryan plan: that the burden of maintaining a modern welfare state has become too great to bear.
Which is what you'd expect an Ayn Rand disciple to think: Welfare state. Bad!


Tuesday, April 05, 2011

E.D. Kain's "An Alternative to the Ryan Budget"

Is must reading. So much so, that here is a big chunk of it: (emp in original)
Andrew Sullivan says that Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget is a Very Serious budget and if liberals don’t like it, well what’s the alternative? So just for fun, I hopped over to the New York Times’ budget calculator to try my hand at fixing the impending fiscal nightmare and saving the world from certain financial doom. Here is what I did.

I really didn’t cut any of the small potato stuff like government jobs or salaries. I didn’t reduce subsidies to farms (even though I don’t think that’s a bad idea) or touch any other discretionary spending except defense.

On defense, I reduced spending on nuclear programs, reduced troop levels to pre-Iraq levels, reduced the Navy and Air Force fleets, canceled weapons programs, and reduced the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to 30,000 by 2013.

I ignored malpractice reform and didn’t increase the retirement age one bit. I did reduce the tax break for employer-provided insurance because that’s one of the major hurdles to fixing our broken healthcare system. I didn’t raise the Medicare eligibility age. I didn’t ‘voucherize’ Medicare or turn Medicaid into a slush fund for state governments. I did means-test Social Security, but it wasn’t necessary. You could take it or leave it really.

Then I returned tax rates to the historically low Clinton-era levels. I returned estate, capital gains, and income rates back to the Clinton-era levels. I raised the cap on payroll taxes on incomes above $106,000.

I skipped over the millionaire’s tax (though we certainly could impose one, we don’t need to) and decided to follow some of the advice of the Bowles-Simpson plan by removing loopholes in the tax code. I did not, however, lower rates as they suggested. Rates are low! Removing loopholes makes sense, but we don’t need lower taxes.

Nor did I remove the mortgage deduction or implement a national sales tax (though I think a national sales tax coupled with a millionaire’s tax makes a lot of sense, and would raise a lot of money). Instead, I opted for a carbon tax and a bank tax because I think we should put a price on carbon and on the risks bankers have been taking with our money.

And just like that, I closed up the deficit by 2015 and also by 2030. I didn’t have to fire a single teacher or privatize a single government program to do it either.

Basically, cutting back the military to pre-Bush levels, and reverting back to the Clinton-era tax rates is all you need to do to fix the deficit. There’s some tinkering you can do here and there to make it more sustainable, but that’s all in the margins. A national sales tax would be more recession proof, but we don’t need one. Fixing healthcare would be great, but it’s going to take a lot more than the Republican idea of gutting entitlements and leaving the poor out in the rain to fend for themselves.

Raise some revenue, cut some defense spending, and call it a day.

The rest is just fearmongering and tax cuts for the very, very rich at the expense of middle-class and working Americans. Surely we can do better than this Very Serious budget proposal.


Ezra Klein is unhappy with Obama:

For basically being uninvolved, especially regarding the budget. Key excerpt:
The conventional wisdom is that Obama is being given a great gift this week by Ryan, whose budget proposes to privatize Medicare and slash Medicaid. But the conventional wisdom might be wrong: Ryan is beginning the debate far to the right. He won’t get everything he wants, but if he gets 50 percent of what he wants, or even 35 percent, it’ll be the most dramatic victory that conservatives have scored against the social safety net in a generation — larger, at least in dollar terms, than anything done to welfare in 1996.

And it ignores that Ryan was also given a great gift: the opportunity to set the budget conversation virtually on his own.


Monday, April 04, 2011

Taking the political temperature:

Tuesday's Supreme Court election in Wisconsin will be the first measure, of those who bother to vote, of how (un)popular the new governor Walker is.

If the results are decisive, expect it to drive commentary and politics for the rest of the year.


At a critical time when the budget is being debated:

It's best to put one's effort into drumming up support for re-election.

There has been virtually nothing from the White House in recent weeks establishing markers on the budget. Or defending programs within the budget. Which means the Republicans get the face time to moan about the debit and the need for "hard choices".

Where's the leadership?


Saturday, April 02, 2011

The class war:

It's on.

And in at least one aspect, has already been won.