Sunday, February 28, 2010

The North Face climb to reconciliation - Over in the Green Room, they're running the numbers for House and Senate votes for health care reform. In the House, the Stupak Democrats are unhappy with the abortion language and fiscal conservatives in both parties aren't keen on the cost; these include a lot of Democrats who voted for the bill the first time around with a thin five-vote margin. Ominous quote: one moderate Democrat says that a lot of Dems who voted "yea" the first time around "want another bite at the apple" while those who voted "nay" have no regrets.
A retired schoolteacher speaks - A little heavy on the religion, but this lamentation by a former Hartford teacher tells it like it is. The comments are good, too.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

It's a big one - Earthquake in Chile, magnitude 8.8 (!) I checked my World Almanac and historically this is a massive quake.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Defining the devil – Power Line wonders why Obama hates the insurance companies so much. In a related post on Critical Condition, Jeffrey Anderson notes that if health insurers are trying to get rich, they're doing a lousy job: the profit margin for health insurers is a thin 2.2%, which places them in 35th place among U.S. industries.

More - From the Minuteman.
Obama sucks up all the oxygen in the room

Here's John Dickerson on Slate with "GOP 1, Obama 1, Democrats 0"

This is why it wasn't a good day for congressional Democrats. According to strategists involved in 2010 races, fence-sitting Democrats needed to see Obama change the political dynamic. He needed to show how health care reform could be defended and how Republicans could be brought low. He did neither. White House aides and the president himself said he was going to press Republicans for how their plans would work, but he did that only twice - and mildly. There was no put-up-or-shut-up moment.
When Republicans failed to live up to their caricature, they put the Democrats into a bind because they can't just wave off the minority as reflexively obstructionist. Instead, the GOP bought genuine concerns to the table – concerns shared by many Americans – that were often waved off by Obama as "illegitimate" or "details" or "props."

But Obama doesn't have to face the voters in eight months; Congressional Democrats do and they can't depend on the personal magnetism of the One to help.

More - Megan McArdle has some thoughts.

And this - Daily Beast: "What was Obama thinking?" Specifically, he notes that the Republicans came prepared with facts while the Democrats relied on sob stories and "the infantilizing of a national audience."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Health and un-health - I'm feeling a little under the weather today, mostly just sinus pressure. So I can't comment much on the healthcare summit today since I was at work while it was on CSpan. But from what I've read, here's my commentary for the two-dozen visitors to this blog.

As somebody who averred that this summit was a gift from Obama - and not a "trap" as some had alleged - I feel vindicated. The Republicans had prepared well for the meeting and didn't show up as the unreasonable "Party of No" that Obama had hoped for. Instead, in excruciating detail delivered in measured tones (yes, I'm swooning for Paul Ryan) the GOP explained why they - and a wide majority of Americans - opposed this "dangerous experiment" in health care reform.

Extra - NRO: "Ducking and dodging"

More - Minuteman: "I think they just have to fade." Don't you listen to what we all s-s-s-say!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Imperious government

Here's Michael Gerson in the WashPost: "Obama's health reform gamble raises questions of judgment"

After a year of debate, Democratic leaders -- given every communications advantage and decisive control of every elected branch of government -- have not only lost legislative momentum, they have lost a national argument. Americans have taken every opportunity -- the town hall revolt, increasingly lopsided polling, a series of upset elections culminating in Massachusetts -- to shout their second thoughts. At this point, for Democratic leaders to insist on their current approach is to insist that Americans are not only misinformed but also dimwitted.
President Obama said as much in the State of the Union address:

Still, this is a complex issue. And the longer it was debated, the more skeptical people became. I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people.
Please be patient with us! Meanwhile, as Congress prepares to ignore the vox populi, Rasmussen reports a new record:

Voter unhappiness with Congress has reached the highest level ever recorded by Rasmussen Reports as 71% now say the legislature is doing a poor job.
So go right ahead and vote for this unpopular legislation. Or don't.

Extra - 73% of Americans say scrap the current HCR bill. Stupid Americans.

More - Karl Rove advises the Republicans to call out Obama.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The coolest kindergartener

Lifted straight from Maggie's Farm.
Unbending the cost curve - Greg Mankiw notes that one of the only provisions in the original health care legislation that everybody agreed would reduce costs and fund the plan was the tax on "Cadillac" plans. But the unions balked, so it was scrapped. Well, it wasn't dropped but instead pushed out until 2018 for plans with a value over $27K, of which there are very few.

Extra - Good review from Hennessey.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The dependency agenda - CNN published this? Wow. "Five freedoms you'd lose in health care reform."
This has nothing to do with Obamacare - WashPost: "Political handicapper Charlie Cook said that it was "very hard to come up with a scenario where Democrats don't lose the House."
Just makin' stuff up, part deux - The Congressional Budget Office says "We don't know what's in this thing."

[Thursday at Blair House]
Republicans: "Let's talk about the cost of this legislation, the tax hikes, and whether it's deficit-neutral."
Obama: "We can't. We don't know what it will cost."
Republicans: "Can we come back later?"
Obama: "Obstructionists!"
Just makin' stuff up on health care

Here's President Obama "helping" Harry Reid at a town hall meeting:

The bill that Harry and I have been working on would provide assistance to a whole range of community-based efforts -- preventive care, wellness care -- which is absolutely vital not only for the people who are receiving services at clinics like yours, but also for reducing the costs of health care overall, because the more that people have access to preventive care, the less likely they are to go to the emergency room when things are already out of hand.
First of all, what's the difference between preventative care and wellness care? Second of all, the vitalness (vitality?) of preventative care has been long debunked; it does not reduce costs. Finally, if you view MassCare as the precursor for government-run Obamacare, then it doesn't reduce visits to the emergency room either. From the April 2009 Boston Globe: "ER visits, costs in Mass. Climb – Questions raised about healthcare law's impact on overuse"

More people are seeking care in hospital emergency rooms, and the cost of caring for ER patients has soared 17 percent over two years, despite efforts to direct patients with nonurgent problems to primary care doctors instead, according to new state data.
Obama wishes these things were true, but the evidence is four-square against him.

Flashback – Opinion Journal: "The Massachusetts debacle, coming soon to your neighborhood."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Where does all my money go? - There's a story in today's Boston Globe business section about personal budgeting sites on the Internet to keep track of your expenses: "Budgeting's back in vogue and these websites make it easier." Eating out didn't used to be a big expense for me until my kids didn't want to eat off the childrens' menu anymore.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Madness - Vegas senator Harry Reid now says he's going to double-down on health care reform. Pundit & Pundette has a good roundup of the news and response. In short, the topic (again) is using reconciliation as a way to pass the bill without a 60-vote majority in the Senate. But the reconciliation rule is pertinent to budget matters only - any policy issues in health-care reform cannot be decided via reconciliation. So, for example, imposing an insurance mandate on everybody cannot be passed in this manner.

How much longer are Congressional Democrats going to follow Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi over this cliff? The votes are not there for reconciliation and the House won't vote for HCR at all. The Sunday news shows are going to be lively tomorrow.

Extra - Legal Insurrection: "Obama declares legislative war"

More - Red State: "Add irrational to desperate and you get the Dems attempting to pass Obamacare via reconciliation."
Gettin' together in good faith - Hot Air: "Obama on health-care summit: Let's play nice or I'll nuke you with reconciliation." Bipartisanship!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Freedom vs. dependency - Via this Power Line post, you can find George Will's speech to CPAC. It's all good: funny, biting, incisive, and forceful.
Abridged Tiger Woods apology

Cruel Harry Reid - Politico reports: "Reid tries to resurrect public option."

Why is the Senate Majority leader stringing along credulous liberals by holding out hope for health care reform in general and the public option specifically? Americans are opposed to HCR, Congressional moderates have never supported either the public option or reconciliation, and parliamentary rules prevent using the reconciliation ploy to set national policy.

It's just mean at this point.
Hilarious sign at RMV: 'please turn off cell phones'. That's the only thing preventing a riot.
Standing in line at RMV - 1.5 hour wait. Bummer

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Only the paranoid survive - This is far-fetched, yet believable: hold on to your 401(k) savings, America. You're going to need it when Social Security and your pension fund go bankrupt.
Point and counterpoint

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius writes in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that insurance company Wellpoint's premium hike in California means that we need to pass Obamacare.

Meanwhile, an article in the Wall Street Journal explains why Wellpoint's problems in California - where state regulations force insurance companies to cover beneficiaries - will be extended around the country if Obamacare passes.

Compare and contrast.
Good news in GWOT - I don't know if or how the United States' relationship with Pakistan has changed over the past year but this is welcome news: "Pakistan captures two top Taliban figures."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Health care hijinx - Some continue to think next week's health care summit is a trap for the Republicans who will look "obstructionist" and Obama will use this as an excuse to ram through HCR with reconciliation. I don't think another meeting will make a bit of difference. After a year of yakking on the legislation, Americans are against it more than ever and opinions have largely solidified. I'm starting this is all just a show for Ezra Klein and the netroots.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Whatever, Ezra Klein

I don't think the WashPost blogger cares a whit for process or politics or reason: he just wants Congress to pass the health care bill no matter what. Here's his latest prevarication:
Democrats haven't even begun the work of defining it [reconciliation] as an up-or-down vote, and a process they'll gladly forgo if the Republicans agree to let the Democrats have an up-or-down vote without using reconciliation.
Question: what's stopping the Democrats from holding an up-or-down vote in the House? Nothing, except they don't have the votes. Unless he's talking about the Senate, where voting rules don't suddenly change because you support a certain piece of legislation. Have your up-or-down vote, already, and stop whining about the Republicans.

Also, in his heads-I-win, tails-you-lose reasoning, if the Republicans don't show up for the health care summit, it only proves their recalcitrance and if they do show, it will only showcase their bad faith. Except for one thing: Republicans contend that the health care legislation is so compromised with bad policies and backdoor deals that Congress should start over, and most Americans agree.

Related - WSJ "Another liberal crackup": "Democrats have responded by blaming 'obstructionist' Republicans, who lack the votes to block anything by themselves."

Extra - MacsMind: "Political hari-kari"

More - Yes, it was awful Zogby but Rasmussen found the same results: 61% to 28% say start all over.
It's nirvana - One of the "winners" from Evan Bayh's retirement? Political junkies. Hey, that's me!
Persona non grata – This story via the Corner indicates there is no love lost for Governor Deval Patrick in the Bay State. I'd put his chances for re-election at less than 10%. The Scott Brown effect? Maybe.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Movie for a day off - I finally got to the Netflix copy of "There will be Blood" that's been sitting on my desk for a week. Meh - good, but there wasn't a single laugh to balance out the relentless drama of a driven man. Mark my words, though: do you know who's going to win an Oscar one day? Paul Dano. That kid is the real thing. He was also the mute teenager in "Little Miss Sunshine" FYI.
Free speech for me, but not for thee - On the New Republic, Jonathan Chait (!) comments on the limits of free speech at U-Cal-Irvine: "So we are back to the foundational belief that free speech ought not to apply to anybody who expresses views the campus left dislikes."
Breakin' the law, breakin' the law

Easy pick-up - Fox News: "Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh will not seek re-election this year."

Extra - Legal Insurrection discovers that leaving the Senate for a GOP pickup is "immoral." Who knew?
A bad bet in Massachusetts

Beacon Hill, desperate for more - always more - revenue, is looking to bring casinos to the land of Puritans. Boston Globe: "Gambling, by any name, is a tax on suckers"

Casinos mean sharp increases in bankruptcies and domestic violence. Addiction leads to higher crime and suicide rates. The children of gambling addicts are more likely to suffer from physical abuse and more likely to turn to tobacco, drugs, and alcohol.

Still, advocates argue, whatever the downside, "gaming" means gleaming "new revenue" for the state.

"New revenue," though, is just casino-speak for a new tax: a sucker tax on those willing to plunk down cash on tables tilted sharply toward the pit bosses. A sucker tax on those willing to sit at slot machines ergonomically designed to keep players in thrall of the lights and levers for hours at a time - complex algorithms creating the illusion of near-victory as wallets empty.
Grabbing some of the cash from Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos in Connecticut has become an obsession for Boston pols. There's nary a thought for the Massachusetts citizens who must give up their paychecks and Social Security checks to support such an operation. Nor do they really care about the low-wage jobs created or the ancillary businesses that follow casinos. So, yes, there will be more blackjack dealers, pawn shops owners, "escort" services, gambling counselors, and security officers - paid out of Junior's college tuition fund.

Is this the kind of society we want to build, Massachusetts?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

No blogging today

Valentines's Day
My birthday
Winter Olympics
New season of "The Amazing Race"


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cash for clunkers, meet your evil twin - According to this NYT article, Japan is offering a nearly $3,000 subsidy if you purchase a "fuel-efficient" Hummer H3.
Change you can believe in - RCP Blog "2009: Lobbyists most profitable year." They warned me that if I voted for John McCain, the lobbyists would take over - and they were right!
Think twice - In a post titled "Feature not a bug," Coyote Blog notes that the Founding Fathers purposely made it a pain-in-the-butt to pass legislation, even more so if it's unpopular.

Friday, February 12, 2010

So it's come to this: Saudis declare war on the color red - Boston Globe "Saudi police have no love for Valentine's day": "The Saudi religious police launched a nationwide crackdown yesterday on stores selling items that are red or in any other way allude to the banned celebrations of Valentine's Day."
Magic bus - The same voodoo that keeps airline passengers docile has come to school buses: "Wi-Fi turns rowdy bus into rolling study hall."
The "B" is for "bluff" - Fox News: "Democrats hold 'plan B' over Republicans' heads going into health care talks." Yeah, right. There are not even close to a majority of votes in the House of Representatives anymore and there may not even be 50 votes in the Senate, if you take the recent votes of Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln into consideration.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

One week ago - Patrick Kennedy: "Scott Brown's candidacy a joke."

Today - Patrick Kennedy: "Patrick Kennedy's candidacy is over."

Super Bowl black ops - This story in the NY Times is pretty funny: "How the Letterman-Oprah-Leno Superbowl ad came together." There's no love lost between Letterman and Leno but Dave thought it was just plain funny.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"Deadliest Catch" captain Phil passes on to that wheelhouse in the sky - NY Daily News: "Captain Phil Harris, star of Discovery Channel's 'Deadliest Catch,' dies at 53." He had a stroke last week and didn't pull through. As a fan of the show and the "Cornelia Marie" captain, all I'm going to say is this: you can't smoke 10 packs of cigarettes and drink 20 Red Bulls a day.
Headline of the day - Michael Barone: "With absolute power, Team Obama grows stupid"

Well, when you've lost Krugman, you've really messed up.
Even Honda? - Boy, Ford is sitting in the catbird seat now - all its competitors are having problems. Now Honda is reporting a recall because of airbag problems.
I knew it! - Every time I see one of those commercials for Ally bank (e.g. the two girls with the pony) I say: "Those kids cannot be actors." The reactions of the kids are just too genuine. According to this CNBC story, the ads were filmed as a kind of "Candid Camera." Hah!
Welcome to the really big show

Here's Ruth Marcus in the WashPost on the health-care summit:

But the president's proposal was not really meant to be taken at face value. In case the president's ducking of Couric's question about his willingness to "start at square one" wasn't clear enough, the White House came out to emphasize that, no, the president wasn't backing away from the measures that have already passed both houses of Congress. He plans to come to the table with a merged Democratic blueprint as his starting point. Republicans should feel free to chime in, though.

To call this Kabuki is to insult the Japanese art form. I am no fan of the House Republican leadership, but under these circumstances it's hard to fault Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio and Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia for suggesting that they might have better things to do than serve as Democratic stage props.
Americans hate the current health care legislation and the GOP leaders can make the argument that trying to fix the 2000+ page bill would be like getting a car wash for a wrecked clunker. But the White House won't do that, and it won't entertain other ideas (e.g. tort reform) so there's only the vaudeville show.

Extra – CBS News: "Obama says bipartisanship but what he wants is GOP surrender."

More - Gateway Pundit urges the GOP to speak plainly.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The loyal opposition - The Senate upheld a filibuster against labor nominee Craig Becker tonight. Republicans opposed him because they felt he would push a union agenda; newly-minted Senator Scott Brown voted against the nominee. Much more interesting was that Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Blanche Lincoln (D-MO) joined the Republican filibuster. Hearing footsteps going into the midterms?

Related - Slate: "The Senator's Dilemma - What game theory can teach us about the fate of health care reform."
The Chicago Way – According to this Financial Times article, the White House is bringing bareknuckle politics to every relationship and issue in a permanent campaign.

Cold water – Reason: "Democratic fantasies face the bracing slap of reality."
Ezra Klein barks

My new favorite pastime is reading the comments below the WashPost's resident health care reform cheerleader. In today's installment, Klein pushes back against the Republicans and notes that the majority party gets to write the legislation and they should just shut up:

The Republicans might want to act like they're the majority, but they remain the minority. That's why they're afraid of this summit: They know that the majority can still pass a bill, and it's in the majority's interests to pass a bill, and they want to keep that from happening. But they can't. Only the Democrats can.
Brilliant. This commenter gets right to the point:

"They can write the legislation when the American people say they can." Pretty big talk, Ezra. Your party had the White House, Congress, and a gail [sic] force wind of public support at their backs for much of a year. Elections do matter, and the Dems couldn't finish the job at point blank range. Don't worry, November is coming and the American people will have their say about Obama, his healthcare plan and his entire agenda.
This one notes that the summit diminishes the Presidency:

This is just wrong. The summit itself is a sign of weakness. The Republicans are just pushing further to see if Obama backs down even more. This is a win for Republicans. The bill is on hold for another 2.5 weeks which means more time to kill it and if Obama doesn't "listen" to Republicans in his summit he'll take the heat, not them.
It appears that Obama's gambit here is to appear reasonable while those darn Republicans make demands that don't bow to the President's view of "bipartisanship." But I don't see this as a "trap" at all: the GOP should welcome another opportunity to showcase the awful aspects of this legislation. What's the downside again? Republicans might appear intransigent? That's what America wants them to be, at least on this bill.

Dems did win the previous election and the election before that, and they did get to write the underlying legislation. But passing that ghastly mess that they wrote is a whole 'nuther kettle of fish. To do that, they have to write legislation that the public wants passed. Until they write legislation that satisfies a solid majority of the American people, there is no risk to the Republicans in opposing it.
Good stuff, Ezra. Keep it up.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Pretty sneaky, sis - The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (h/t Mankiw) has discovered that the Obama administration is calling temporary stimulus programs "baseline" (read: permanent) to hide the cost: "Over ten years, we estimate these baseline adjustments to cost $266 billion, including interest."

David Letterman's revenge - It looks like Indianapolis was less than supportive of its hometown heroes. USA Today: "Indianapolis Colts' homecoming brings out 11 people to airport." Ouch.
Using "bipartisan" as a cudgel

House Republican leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor have responded to President Obama's call for a health care summit. Here's an excerpt:

Your answers to these critical questions will help determine whether this will be a truly open, bipartisan discussion or merely an intramural exercise before Democrats attempt to jam through a job-killing health care bill that the American people can’t afford and don’t support. ‘Bipartisanship’ is not writing proposals of your own behind closed doors, then unveiling them and demanding Republican support. Bipartisan ends require bipartisan means.These questions are also designed to try and make sense of the widening gap between the President’s rhetoric on bipartisanship and the reality. We cannot help but notice that each of the President’s recent bipartisan overtures has been coupled with harsh, misleading partisan attacks.
One of their questions in search of an answer is whether the Democrats will take budget reconciliation off the table as a scheme to cram HCR through Congress. They also want to invite auditors from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to discuss the costs of the legislation. Plus, they request a "standard of transparency and openness" in that all future negotiations take place in public.

All pretty reasonable stuff, in the interest of hearing out dissenting views and fostering open debate, and conditions that President Obama will never agree to. I think the Obami got a little too excited about the Presdient's meeting with the GOP last month and they hope the magic will translate to health care reform discussions. The man still believes that if he just explains it to the American people – slowly and with small words – the public will come around.

Extra – Great review by the Minuteman: "Obama announces plan to host Republican surrender ceremony." Heh.

Related - Politico: "For a president who ran on uplifting themes like change and hope, Barack Obama spends an awful lot of time scolding Americans about how he hopes they'll change."

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Who dat?!? - Congratulations to the New Orleans Saints, winners of Superbowl XLIV!

And now for today's super-awesome newspaper headline, straight from the Boston Globe: "One thing not up for debate: Colts will win."

I can't make this stuff up.
Super Bowl halftime update

My favorite commercials at the half:

1. Bud Light meteor (starring that guy from "Lost"!)
2. Doritos shock collar
3. Snickers Bette White & Abe Vigoda playing football

Honorable mention: David Letterman having the "worst Superbowl party ever" with Oprah and Jay Leno.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Steer the car - Keith Hennessey clarifies some misconceptions by President Obama's on deficits and notes that every major policy initiative his administration has proposed has been geared towards accelerating spending on the vilified programs that have expanded the national debt. Quote: "It is strange for a President to complain repeatedly about ten-year old policies and then not propose to change them."
Talk talk and more talk - WashPost: "Obama suggests extending debate as a way to pass health reform."

Perhaps a "beer summit"? Does Obama know any other way to get things accomplished in Washington that doesn't involve a teleprompter?

Back here in the real world, why would the Republicans - for either political or philosophical reasons - agree to this new kumbaya offer? There's no political gain to negotiating for legislation that a majority of Americans dislike and Republicans have zero interest in setting up a new government entitlement on top of the groaning, New Deal-era programs that are already bankrupting the country.

I can see the peevish response from the White House already: the GOP is the "party of no" interested only in obstructionism. Good luck with that, Axelrod. It was devastating against Senator Scott Brown.
Change you can believe in - Legal Insurrection: "Patrick Kennedy must go."
Compare and contrast

Slate: "Blame the childish, ignorant American public – not politicians – for our political and economic crisis."

WashPost: "Why are liberals so condescending?"

And this from Charles Krauthammer: "Well, they [Democrats] understand it through a prism of two cherished axioms: (1) The people are stupid and (2) Republicans are bad. Result? The dim, led by the malicious, vote incorrectly."

Extra - From Maggie's Farm.
What happens to unsustainable things? They can't be sustained

Mark Steyn: "We are incentivizing financial unsustainability"

The other day, Douglas Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office, described current deficits as "unsustainable." So let’s make them even more so. The president tells us, with a straight face, that his grossly irresponsible profligate wastrel of a predecessor took the federal budget on an eight-year joyride, so the only way his sober, fiscally prudent successor can get things under control is to grab the throttle and crank it up to what Mel Brooks in Spaceballs (which seems the appropriate comparison) called "Ludicrous Speed."

Obama's spending proposes to take the average Bush deficit for the years 2001–2008, and double it, all the way to 2020. To get out of the Bush hole, we need to dig a hole twice as deep for one-and-a-half times as long. And that's according to the official projections of his Economics Czar, Ms. Rose Colored-Glasses. By 2015, the actual hole may be so deep that even if you toss every Obama speech down it on double-spaced paper you still won’t be able to fill it up. In the spendthrift Bush days, federal spending as a proportion of GDP average 19.6 percent. Obama proposes to crank it up to 25 percent as a permanent feature of life.

But, if they’re "unsustainable," what happens when they can no longer be sustained? A failure of bond auctions? A downgraded government debt rating? Reduced GDP growth? Total societal collapse? Mad Max on the New Jersey Turnpike?
Let's jump to the conclusion:

It’s not the "debt" or the "deficit," it's the spending. And the only way to reduce that is with fewer government agencies, fewer government programs, fewer government employees, lower government salaries.

Instead, all four are rocketing up: We are incentivizing unsustainability, and, when it comes to "some collapse down the road," you’ll be surprised how short that road is.
It shouldn't be surprising then to see headlines like this from Rasmussen: "Government workers optimistic, private workers not." Of course. Both sides can see which way the wind is blowing.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Can't possibly be true - I saw this in a George Will article yesterday: Nobel-prize winning economist Robert Fogel estimates that by 2040, China's economy will top $123 trillion. By his guess, China's GDP will account for 40% of the entire planet's output vs. about 14% for the United States.

Good heavens: even if he's off by a lot, we're looking at the start of the Chinese century. Time to learn Mandarin, kids.
Buda-bump-bump-bump, another one under the bus

Via the WashPost, Arkansas senator Blanche Lincoln asked President Obama in a closed-door session to moderate his administration's policies so that candidates (like her) wouldn't be thrown out of Congress en masse.

Obama's response: "You'll be missed."

The second striking thing was how easily he appeared to write off Lincoln politically. Conceding nothing, he implied that her defeat was not only a foregone conclusion, but also an acceptable price to pay for staying the course on policy.
Keep on truckin'!

Related - Christian Science Monitor: "Blanche Lincoln fights for her political life."

Thursday, February 04, 2010

I warned ya - Hot Air: "Social Security tipping over into the red."
Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel

Today I was going around a curve when the drum solo of "In the Air Tonight" came on, so I wasn't able to join Phil Collins. Air drumming still appears to be legal in the Bay State but texting is out: "Mass. House approves bill to ban text-messaging while driving."

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Whatever Ezra Klein, again

Do the Democrats want to discuss the millstone around their necks? Uh, no:

Today's televised session between Barack Obama and the Senate Democrats wasn't encouraging to those of us hoping the Democrats are spending their time worrying about how to pass the health care bill. There were questions on the deficit, on jobs, on partisanship, on energy and on judicial nominees. No one bothered to ask about health-care reform.
Hey, how 'bout that Superbowl, and stuff?

Update - Senators talked about health care once the cameras were off: "Senators did not want to press Obama on healthcare reform in front of television cameras for fear of putting him in an awkward spot."
Be bipartisan and vote for my stuff, stupid jerks!

Ah, I'm enjoying the President's exhortations for the Republicans to vote for unpopular legislation. There's CNN with "Obama rips Republicans for 'obstruction'" and Fox News with "Obama to Republicans: 'Show me what you got'".

This kind of persuasive argument reminds me of the "Branch Wars" episode of "The Office":

Pam: I have Ben Nugent on the line, he is the top salesman in Utica.
Michael: Hi Ben, Michael Scott.
Ben: Hi Michael.
Michael: I'm going to cut right to the chase here. Do you like magic? Because I'm a genie in a bottle, and I'm going to grant you three wishes. To move to Scranton, to have a great job, and to be my best friend.
Ben: Aren't you the guy that hit the woman with your car?
Pam: [giggles]
Michael: [to Pam] Get out. [to Ben] Uh, yeah. I also saved her life, but I guess that's not as grabby.
Ben: Everyone says Scranton branch is worse than Camden. Didn't everyone from Stanford quit, like immediately?
Michael: No, I fired them, and your next. ... So what do you say?
Ben: Seriously?

Yeah, seriously, Obama's castigating the GOP in one breath and then insisting – insisting! – that they "work with him" in the next to vote for bills that a majority of Americans oppose. Well, the Republicans floated a trial balloon on entitlement reform, which even Obama has admitted needs to be fixed, and the Democrats pounced:

In a new example of their efforts to showcase Republican ideas, House Democrats on Tuesday quickly jumped on one conservative Republican House leader's suggestion that promised Social Security and Medicare benefits need to be rethought for Americans under 55.

"I think it is very important that people see what the Republican proposals are," said Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland. "It is not that they are the party of no, they are the party of no new ideas. They want to turn back the clock and adopt the same Bush policies that got us back in this mess in the first place."
Can you feel the bipartisanship?

Extra - More from Weasel Zippers
Number 41 arrives - The Hill: "Scott Brown to be sworn in Thursday." Should I say something nice about Harry Reid? I can't do it!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Yikes - NYT "Senators warned of terror attack on U.S. by July": "America's top intelligence official told lawmakers on Tuesday that he was "highly certain" that Al Qaeda or one of its affiliates would attempt a large-scale attack on American soil within the next six months."
Stick a fork in HCR – In this New Republic piece, Jonathan Cohn wanders around the football stadium, long after the game is over and the stands have emptied. I think it's just cruel that Nancy Pelosi is leading him along. Health care reform is done at least for this year, if Blanche Lincoln's numbers are any indication. Dragging it out to keep the netroots at bay just sets them up for a Lucy-and-the-football scenario later.

Extra - Politico: "[Lawrence] O'Donnell attributes the theatrics to the need to deal with the liberal base that will go bonkers if Democrats quit on reform."
Doomed to repeat history – Legal Insurrection takes aim at tax hikes on the "rich": "$1 trillion Obama will never see."
Confession: I used to be a Harper's magazine subscriber

This NY Times article about the fiscal and personnel turmoil at Harper's manages to avoid the elephant in the room: the magazine is just not that good anymore. Back in the late 90s-early 00s, you could count on Harper's for in-depth reporting or long-form essays on a variety of topics. For example in late 2000, before the poker craze hit, the magazine ran a great article by James McManus about the World Series of Poker. Another time I recall an expose on the sugar industry and how they stick sweet stuff into everything.

The downturn came – unsurprisingly given Lewis Lapham's politics – around the election of George W. Bush. Political commentary had always been a part of Harper's but now it turned into a full-blown case of Bush Derangement Syndrome. Every cover story, every sidebar, every commentary was a full-blown whine, criticism, and kvetch. Some, maybe all of it was justified, but who wants to read the same thing over and over? It's a shame, really, but emotion ran ahead of reason and now Harper's is circling the drain.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Welcome to the party, pal! - Even the NY Times gets it in "Huge deficits may alter U.S. politics and global power": "Mr. Obama has published the 10-year numbers in part, it seems, to make the point that the political gridlock of the past few years, in which most Republicans refused to talk about tax increases and Democrats refuse to talk about cutting entitlement programs, is unsustainable." Hmmm...that sounds familiar.
More graphs - Keith Hennessey "The President's bigger budget": "At its lowest point in the next decade, federal spending would still be 1.7 percentage points above the 30-year historic average. Over the next decade, President Obama proposes spending be 12% higher as a share of the economy than it has averaged over the past three decades." (H/T Greg Mankiw)
Debt undermines American security

Here's are the bullet points from Gerald Seib's article in the WSJ: "Deficit balloons into national-security threat"

- They [budget deficits] make America vulnerable to foreign pressures.
- Chinese power is growing as a result.
- Long-term national-security budgets are put at risk.
- The American model is being undermined before the rest of the world.
This is an argument I've been making for the years when this was a one-issue blog: the unfunded liabilities of entitlement spending (not even mentioned in the article above) represents a sword of Damocles over the United States. In fact, forget about Obama's budget because without reform the entire U.S. budget will go towards Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security by 2052.

No defense, no education, no park service, no discretionary spending at all. The good news is that we won't be adding to the national debt because, by then, nobody will lend us any more money.