Tuesday, May 31, 2011
If you want it, here it is, come and get it
Normally I hate when Congress engages in these "show votes" and tonight's House vote to reject a debt ceiling increase is no exception. But let's remember who asked for the ayes and nays:
Just last month, 114 Democrats signed a letter calling for a “clean” vote and Democratic Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., also advocated one. But today, Hoyer announced he was advising his caucus to vote against the measure. Ultimately, just 97 Democrats voted for it, with 82 explicitly voting against it (on top of the seven “present” votes).Congressional leaders will be meeting with Obama tomorrow, possibly to discuss another commission whose recommendations they will summarily ignore.
Monday, May 30, 2011
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Asked and answered - Medicare's own trustees have reported that in a decade or so the program will be bankrupt and only able to pay out what it receives in payroll taxes. This Sunday morning on "Face the Nation" the DNC chair was asked if the Democrats have a plan to save this fiscally-challenged program. As Hoystory quips: "That would be a no."
Extra - Here's a very good review on Medicare's mathematical demise via the Sundries Shack.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Friday, May 27, 2011
It's come to this
Senate majority leader Harry Reid - of "show vote" fame - won't hold a vote to recess the Senate for the Memorial Day holiday because it would highlight the fact that the Senate Democrats have failed to produce a budget proposal. To avoid an unpleasant vote for adjournment over, you know, responsible government, the Senate will hold three "pro forma" sessions next week where some flunky from Virginia will gavel the Senate into session then adjourn. The good news is that because the Senate will remain "officially" in session, President Obama can't make any recess appointments.
Gosh, it makes me proud to be an American.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Hey! Was that Abed?
I'm a huge fan of the NBC show "Community" and there's a running joke about how Abed is a bigger fan for the ABC show "Cougar Town." In this scene, Abed gives a long anecdote about how he traveled to the "Cougar Town" set and managed to get into a scene during shooting.
Then I was watching "Cougar Town" last night and...who's that weird guy?
Abed! Nice. Here's more on the episode from ZapIt.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
It's time to face up to Medicare's problem
So says Bill Clinton. Yes, Bill Clinton.
Former President Bill Clinton, still widely considered one of his party’s foremost politicians, said on Wednesday that Democrats should cut a “reasonable” deal with Republicans on Medicare savings rather than conclude from Tuesday’s upset in a special Congressional election that bashing Republicans on the issue is the key to a party comeback in 2012.But he knows that Democrats don't really believe in leadership:
But Mr. Clinton said he feared that Democrats would conclude “that we shouldn’t do anything.”“I completely disagree with that,” he said. “I think there are a lot of things we can do to bring down Medicare costs.”
The former President recognizes the threat:
Mr. Clinton, with some passion, returned to the topic at the end of an hour-long interview. “I think the Democrats are going to have to be willing to give up, maybe, some short-term political gain by whipping up fears on some of these things — if it’s a reasonable Social Security proposal, a reasonable Medicare proposal. We’ve got to deal with these things. You cannot have health care devour the economy.”Yes, but it's such good politics.
Extra - The only Democrat-proposed budget in the Senate gets zero votes. Finally, bipartisanship! It's to do nothing, but still.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Sunday, May 22, 2011
I was Mitch Daniels' secret
lover supporter - I have to say that I'm disappointed that Indiana governor Daniels isn't running for the Presidency because I think he can win in a walk. So I'm moving on to my second choice of Midwest governors: Tim Pawlenty.
Mitt Romney? Never, never, never. If Romney is the nominee then I'll be signing up for the "Daniels/Pawlenty 2016" campaign.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Friday, May 20, 2011
But we got that oil company vote - Hot Air reports that the "Senate Democrats still not letting anyone see their budget." It's been 750 days since the Senate put forth a budget proposal.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Franken-frame - The Truth About Cars: "Mission creep, weight problems, compromise haunt GM's Alpha platform." That was a good investment, America.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
If you liked the new jobs from the stimulus plan, you'll love the savings from Obamacare - Over at Reason, Peter Suderman reveals that Medicare's own chief actuary says "don't trust the Medicare trustees" while Jacob Sullum notes that any savings from health care reform are based on assumptions that will not occur, such as the "doc fix."
And then there were five - Now I'm just waiting to make a Gang of Four quip. Republican Tom Coburn has pulled out of the Gang of Six trying to find a compromise on deficit reduction. From what it sounds, Coburn was insisting that entitlements needed to be a part of any reform plan while Democrats wanted to raise the passport renewal fee by $5.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Bumping up against the debt ceiling
Megan McArdle has a long and thoughtful post today about how low interest rates are delaying action on the debt ceiling because the cheap borrowing indicates the financial markets don't think the debt crisis is real and/or there's little chance of default.
Let me just add this, if I may. I just finished reading an excellent book about the subprime mortgage crisis and the ensuing economic downturn titled "All the Devils are Here" by Bethany McLean. (She's also the author of the fantastic account of Enron: "The Smartest Guys in the Room.") One thing I took away from the "Devils" book is that - once the market loses faith in an institution - the downfall is swift, harsh, catastrophic, and irreversible.
This was true for AIG, Merrill Lynch, Washington Mutual, but especially for the old-money boys at Wall Street institution Lehman Brothers. In mid-2008, Lehman's exposure to subprime loans was becoming evident. By September, the 150-year-old firm - unable to find a buyer - declared bankruptcy. Only six months before the collapse, Lehman CEO Richard Fuld had appeared on a Barron's list of the 30 best CEOs in the country.
Overcome with debt and liabilities it could not contain or mitigate, Lehman imploded like *that*.
A trillion dollars spent, a million jobs lost - Two Ohio State economists found that Obama's "Recovery and Reinvestment Act" killed off a million private sector jobs but saved 450K government jobs. Powerline: "A verdict on Obama's "stimulus" plan." Heckuva job, Bammy.
Extra - The thrill is gone.
In "The elderly must share the financial burden," columnist Robert Samuelson takes on the long-cultivated stereotype that senior citizens are only a Social Security check from destitution:
From 1959 to 2007, the proportion of the 65-plus population with incomes under the government's poverty line ($12,968 for a couple in 2009) dropped from 35.2 percent to 9.7 percent, which was half the poverty rate for children under 18 (18 percent).The proportion of elderly living in the "high income" group - defined as four times the poverty line, or almost $52,000 for a couple in 2009 - rose from 18.4 percent in 1980 to 30.6 percent in 2007.In 2007, the median net worth (that is, assets minus debts) of 65-plus households was $237,000, about twice the amount for households aged 45 to 54. Among 65-plus married couples, median net worth was $385,000.
This is one of the things that drives me batty when we talk about "fairness" in America's entitlement system. There's very little that's "fair" about transferring large sums of cash from young workers to relatively affluent seniors, especially when everybody knows the system will not offer the same level of support when those workers grow old.
Social Security was formed when Americans when seniors were living in poverty because they could not do the physical labor demanded of the Depression era. Today seniors are healthier, wealthier, and labor is much less strenuous - yet talk of reforming entitlements is a taboo. Sooner or later (I'm guessing sooner), younger Americans are going to figure out that they're at the bottom of this pyramid scheme.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Friday, May 13, 2011
Medicare "as we know it" is already gone
Today the Trustees for Medicare and Social Security released their annual report and - big surprise - the entitlement programs are on a glide path to insolvency:
The Medicare hospital insurance fund for seniors is now projected to run out of money in 2024, five years earlier than last year's estimate. The Social Security trust funds are projected to be drained in 2036, one year earlier than the last estimate. Once the trust funds are exhausted, both programs can only collect enough money in payroll taxes to pay partial benefits, the report said.There's no point in nostalgia for the days when Medicare and Social Security paid out the benefits afforded in the past decades. There's only one future: a reformed entitlement system that bows to current economic conditions and simple math, versus waiting for the inevitable:
If the trust funds are exhausted, immediate benefits cuts would go into effect. Starting in 2024, Medicare could pay about 90 percent of benefits, but that would drop to about 75 percent in 2045. In other words, despite Democratic attempts to savage the Ryan/GOP budget for “ending Medicare as we know it” (starting in 2022), the fact is that “Medicare as we know it” simply won’t be around much longer anyway on it’s current path. Social Security benefits, meanwhile, would receive an immediate 25 percent cut. This is exactly what Paul Ryan is talking about when he stresses to need to address entitlement spending now, on our terms, before cuts are imposed swiftly and indiscriminately.Except for younger voters who fail to grasp the hole being dug on their behalf, I think Americans are waking up to the danger of delay over action and debt over fiscal sanity.
But, but, they've sold dozens of Volts - Megan McArdle: "GM's profits are still a huge net loss for taxpayers."
This is terrible news - Word came out after the Team Six takedown of Osama Bin Laden that the SEALs had collected three computers, computer disks, and a hundred thumb drives. Now, I'm thinking that the data on those drives may not be the intelligence treasure trove we were led to believe.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
The House Budget Committee chair answers some charges from President Obama. A good part is explaining that the "cuts" that Obama criticizes are actually bringing government spending back down to earth after exploding the budget.
And since I think Factcheck is a fair player in any debate, here's their re-rebuttal to Ryan.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Kill/Capture - Right now on PBS is a Frontline special on how the U.S. military targets terrorists in the hot zones.
Update - Depressing: an Afghan commander being supplied by the government forgets that he's "miked" and, once he's "out of earshot" of the Frontline crew, he tells a fellow fighter that he's actually in allegiance with the Taliban.
Monday, May 09, 2011
Let's all scare Grandma
Hit & Run: "How Obamacare cuts Medicare." What it boils down to is that if Medicare doesn't hit certain savings targets, an independent board will cut medical care (that's all they can do) and under-compensated providers will simply drop their Medicare coverage. That's the new status quo, America.
Extra - Here's a good Sibelius.
Sunday, May 08, 2011
Long train running
In the Ideas section of today's Boston Globe, there was an absolutely fascinating article about how officials in India were using "behavioral architecture" to keep poverty-stricken people living near the train line from being killed while crossing the tracks.
The article titled "Train! How psychological tricks can keep people from being killed on the tracks" tells the story about how one area in India employed three changes to keep people aware of the danger of crossing the tracks and fatalities plummeted. First, it was found that people have trouble telling the speed of large objects so they painted sections of the railroad ties yellow to give better perspective of velocity. Second, the warning signs around the tracks using stick figures were replaced with horrific (staged) pictures of an actor being mowed down by a train (see at link). Finally, the warning whistle for the trains was altered:
Final Mile’s third intervention required train drivers to switch from one long warning whistle to two short, sharp blasts. By way of explanation, Dominic cited a 2007 paper from the Stanford University School of Medicine, which found that brain activity - and hence alertness - peaks during short silences between two musical notes. "The silence sets up a kind of expectation in the brain," said Vinod Menon, the paper's senior author and a behavioral scientist working with the Stanford Cognitive and Systems Neuroscience Lab. "That’s the way it works in music, and it isn’t inconceivable that it would work similarly with train whistles."It's kinda like the false ending in the Young Rascals hit "Good Lovin'" where you're waiting for the song to re-start. In all. a very interesting article about how psychology and behavioral science are employed to solve a problem and save lives.
Saturday, May 07, 2011
So I wasn't crazy
I was watching the somewhat-funny show "Happy Endings" Wednesday night and one character was talking to his ex about a mouse in the apartment they couldn't catch. "It's my Bin Laden...Jessica Bin Laden, this hot Arab girl who I dated in college."
Then, well, the audio blanked out. But according to this article, the brilliant producers of the show cut out the line "She was the one that got away." You know, because of recent events.
Dummies! It would have been so much more memorable if you left the line in.
Extra - Whoops! It looks like "Chuck" used an Osama ref also.
Thursday, May 05, 2011
Who did Osama have on sleeve dial?
I think this is the most interesting development in the Bin Laden story:
Osama bin Laden had cash totaling 500 Euros and two telephone numbers sewn into his clothing when he was killed - sure signs that he was prepared to flee his compound at a moment’s notice -top U.S. intelligence officials told members of Congress at a classified briefing in the Capitol Tuesday.It seems to me that these phone numbers are going to be a big story. Were they Osama's contacts in the Pakistani ISI, who were supposed to tip him off to an American operation? Or Ayman Zawahiri's satellite phone? Domino's Pizza?
Wednesday, May 04, 2011
Monday, May 02, 2011
Obama earns a round of golf
A big kudos to the Obama Administration and the Special Forces that took out Bin Laden. There's really nothing I can add to the avalanche that 's already been posted today. I'll just say this: this whole operation could have easily gone the way of Desert One and the blame of failure would have fallen squarely on Obama's shoulders. But since it went spectacularly successfully, Obama deserves high marks for green-lighting the raid.
Make no mistake, I think this guy's going to bankrupt the country. But - at least for today - I'm proud he's my Commander-in-Chief.
Extra - OK, this is appropriate.
Sunday, May 01, 2011
AT LONG LAST - Fox News, CNN, and NY Times confirm that Osama Bin Laden is dead.
Once again, after almost 10 years on the run, Bin Laden is dead dead dead.
News is just coming in tonight but, according to sources, he was killed by a U.S. bomb a week ago and (somehow) the news was kept a secret until DNA tested was complete.
Wow. I was just flipping around channels before going to bed and now this.
I have to be honest: the first couple months after 9/11, I remember waking up every morning hoping to hear news that Bin Laden was cornered somewhere and/or killed. It took way longer than any American could have hoped, but now he's met his maker.
And, boy, is she pissed.
Extra - We have the body? Oh wow.
More - Via Hot Air. I cannot believe the Administration/military kept this a secret for a whole week. Well done, sir, well done.
Even more - Shocking! Killed in our "ally" Pakistan.