Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Looks Like He’s Running

NEW YORK — Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate who ran for president in 2000 as a Green Party candidate, will enter the 2004 race for the White House as an independent candidate, advisers told Fox News on Friday.

An egotistical footnote. By deciding to run, Nader has guaranteed that that’s how he will be remembered.


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The Irresponsibility Tax

What are the costs of Bush’s rampant deficit spending. Dwight M. does some number-crunching and concludes that

… if everything goes right and we do not slip back into recession before 2009 and we do not have any other wars, and there are no costs in Iraq or Afghanistan after this year, and we do not fix the AMT problem and Congress abides by spending recommendations, we will be approaching the end of the Bush Cycle with no hope of paying down any of the debt incurred at the beginning of the cycle. Indeed, Mr. Bush hopes that we will be paying interest on “only” an additional $2.4 trillion dollars. If rates remain fairly low and we can service that debt at, say, 5%, the annual Irresponsibility Tax for the Bush Cycle will be $120 billion each and every year until we begin running surpluses.

The total Irresponsibility Tax for those two cycles [Reagan and Bush II] will be about $200 billion per year. To put that in perspective, the Irresponsibility Tax from the Reagan and Bush Cycles will be larger than Mr. Bush’s proposed discretionary spending for NASA, the Department of Agriculture, the Commerce Department, the Department of Education, the Energy Department, HUD, the Interior Department, the Justice Department, the State Department, and EPA combined.

There are about 100 million tax returns filed each year. The Irresponsibility Tax for the Bush and Reagan Cycles will amount to about $2,000 per year for each taxpayer and will continue every year…


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The Economist on Outsourcing

For more argument about why the US shouldn’t worry unduly about outsourcing (though agreeing that we must still take steps to help out those individuals who will undeniably be adversely affected), you may be interested in the cover story of this week’s Economist. Agree or disagree, I think it’s a thought-provoking piece.


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New Inflation Data

The BLS released its January estimate of the CPI this morning . Here’s the updated graph of the 12-month percent change in the core (i.e. excluding food and energy) CPI and PPI. It shows no major changes in the inflation rate from the previous few months. (The news stories will talk about the big increase of 0.5% in January in the overall price index, but that was almost entirely due to a spike on oil prices. It’s not worth paying too much attention to changes in inflation that are just due to swings in the price of oil, because they don’t tell us much about the underlying health of the economy.)

Note that I’ve added a series called “Chained CPI.” That’s the core consumer price index using a more accurate method of calculation (and which they just started calculating in 2000). It is thought to reflect the real change in consumer prices better than the headline CPI rate. From Jan 2003 to Jan 2004 the chained index shows a 0.75% increase. That’s extremely low inflation, and there’s no sign of it picking up yet. The lack of any demonstrated increase in pricing power is another piece of evidence that the recovery is not as robust as some think.


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So the recession is now all Clinton’s fault. Does that mean that Clinton gets the credit if the economy hits the job growth numbers that the administration now claims were a “goal” rather than a “forecast”?(*)


(*) It was Table 3-1 in the Economic Report of the President (page 98) that started the whole controversy, eventually leading to a near-total admission that the administration made up the jobs numbers. Did Table 3-1 present goals or forecasts? The title of the table is “Administration Forecast.” You decide.

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Bush’s Campaign Strategy

It’s quite simple really. He gave us a preview during his visit to the Fort Polk National Guard base in Louisiana the other day:

FT. POLK, La. — President Bush warned on Tuesday that the country should not become complacent about the danger of terrorism, telling a spirited audience of National Guard and regular Army troops that since the Sept. 11 attacks, his focus as president has been to keep the country safe.

In line with the current White House emphasis on the president’s wartime leadership, Bush mentioned the Sept. 11 attacks six times in the 25-minute speech. The president also emphasized his “resolve” — a word he used four times and a theme reprised in various ways throughout the speech… He [also] used the words “danger” or “dangerous” 11 times during the speech.

There’s nothing like running on a platform of fear and danger. The thing is, his advisors are quite right that those are powerful, powerful motivators for the electorate. Which is why Bush still has a good chance of winning.


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Emperor Hadrian

Webb’s claims in the first two paragraphs quoted in the previous post remind me of this quote, provided by commenter Megamike:

“Beyond the Euphrates began for us the land of mirage and danger, the sands where one helplessly sank, and the roads which ended in nothing. The slightest reversal would have resulted in a jolt to our prestige giving rise to all kinds of catastrophe; the problem was not only to conquer but to conquer again and again, perpetually; our forces would be drained off in the attempt.”

The quote is from Hadrian, one of the last rulers before the beginning of the end of the Roman Empire, sometime between 117-138 A.D. Yet it evokes the now-faded Powell Doctrine of the late 20th century.


UPDATE: Link fixed.

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Not Mincing Words

In today’s USA Today, James Webb (“Secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration, and a Marine platoon and company commander in Vietnam”) leads with some harsh criticism of Kerry, paticularly Kerry’s involvement with Vietnam Veterans Against the War (Conason summarizes and casts doubt upon the attacks against Kerry.)

But Webb’s greatest ire is reserved for President Bush:

Bush arguably has committed the greatest strategic blunder in modern memory. To put it bluntly, he attacked the wrong target. While he boasts of removing Saddam Hussein from power, he did far more than that. He decapitated the government of a country that was not directly threatening the United States and, in so doing, bogged down a huge percentage of our military in a region that never has known peace. Our military is being forced to trade away its maneuverability in the wider war against terrorism while being placed on the defensive in a single country that never will fully accept its presence.

There is no historical precedent for taking such action when our country was not being directly threatened. The reckless course that Bush and his advisers have set will affect the economic and military energy of our nation for decades. It is only the tactical competence of our military that, to this point, has protected him from the harsh judgment that he deserves.

At the same time, those around Bush, many of whom came of age during Vietnam and almost none of whom served, have attempted to assassinate the character and insult the patriotism of anyone who disagrees with them. Some have impugned the culture, history and integrity of entire nations, particularly in Europe, that have been our country’s great friends for generations and, in some cases, for centuries.

Bush has yet to fire a single person responsible for this strategy. Nor has he reined in those who have made irresponsible comments while claiming to represent his administration. One only can conclude that he agrees with both their methods and their message.

Why does former Secretary of the Navy James Webb hate America? Via Skippy at TAS.


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More Republican Science-Quashing

In the spirit of AB’s post about the Bush administration’s bastardization of science, allow me to draw your attention to this article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer last week, about the Ohio state board of education’s vote to teach a competing theory to evolution:

State panel backs disputed lesson, infuriates supporters of evolution

Columbus, 02/11/04: The State Board of Education gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a 10th-grade biology lesson that scientists say could put “intelligent design” in Ohio classrooms.

Setting aside an impassioned plea from the National Academy of Sciences, the board voted 13-4 to declare its intent to adopt the “Critical Analysis of Evolution” lesson next month.

You know you’re in trouble when in the very headline of the story you’re labeled a “supporter” of evolution, like it was a political party. I guess I also fall into the “supporter of gravity” camp.

Developments like these make me think that American workers will indeed soon lose their jobs to better-educated workers around the world, who are generally taught the virtues of reason, scientific inquiry, and factual evidence.


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