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

PSA

It’s true that I have been a bit nastier than usual with some posts (especially this one and this one—though the latter was rather justified by preceding events, as Tom detailed.) The sight of economists who should know better saying “Ewww, tariffs” in the manner of second grade boys who think girls have “cooties” is rather tiring. It’s almost as if they note that a strong rule of law is necessary to ensure that problems of asymmetric information are remedied and then complaining when those laws are actually used. Oh, wait…

Part of this is that people who should know better—maybe not Max B., but certainly Barry O.—keep pretending that Democrats have no obligation to be better than Republicans at addressing issues of inequality and opportunity. In which case one might as well vote for Republicans, if one can find those small-government, fiscally-conservative candidates that only Andrew Samwick seems to believe still exists.

But I am cautiously optimistic today. Thanks to Lance Mannion, I’ll be spending most of this week blogging/reporting the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City. While many of the participants are The Usual Suspects, there is at least some hope that they will approach the world better than they appear to approach their electorate.

If there is anything, especially on Thursday, that someone especially wants to cover, feel free to note it in comments. (Or, if you’re going to be there, say hello.)

He’s from Georgia, but He Speaks the Language Very Well

WalterJon finds a brilliant judge’s response to a “birther” case:

The Court observes that the President defeated seven opponents in a grueling campaign for his party’s nomination that lasted more than eighteen months and cost those opponents well over $300 million. Then the President faced a formidable opponent in the general election who received $84 million to conduct his general election campaign against the President.

It would appear that ample opportunity existed for discovery of evidence that would support any contention that the President was not eligible for the office he sought. To press her “birther agenda,” Plaintiff’s counsel has filed the present action on behalf of Captain Rhodes….

The American taxpayers paid for her third and fourth years of medical school and financially supported her during her subsequent medical internship and residency program. In exchange for this valuable free medical education, Captain Rhodes agreed to serve two years in active service in the Army. She began that term of active service in July of 2008 and had no concerns about fulfilling her military obligation until she received orders notifying her that she would be deployed to Iraq in September of 2009.

Captain Rhodes does not seek a discharge from the Army; nor does she wish to be relieved entirely from her two year active service obligation. She has not previously made any official complaints regarding any orders or assignments that she has received, including orders that have been issued since President Obama became Commander in Chief. But she does not want to go to Iraq (or to any other destination where she may be in harm’s way, for that matter). Her “conscientious objections” to serving under the current Commander in Chief apparently can be accommodated as long as she is permitted to remain on American soil.

Read the whole post. And enjoy the whole decision [PDF].

Title ref:

Compare and Contrast

Andrew Samwick:

Government bureaucrats don’t reduce costs. Market competition reduces costs. The challenge for health care reform is to get the market competition into the places where we want it — providers and insurers competing to deliver better services at lower prices — and out of the places where we don’t want it — insurers competing to insure only the lowest risks and providers gaming the government reimbursement systems to earn the highest profits.

Susan of Texas:

Government might possibly keep [one] safe and therefore the billions wasted are money well-spent. [One] graciously permits the government to police [one’s] bar-hopping, repair the roads [one] drives on, clean [one’s] water and deliver it to [one’s] door, remove [one’s] bodily waste, treat it, and release it far from [one’s] view.

The government hauls away [one’s] garbage, keeps [one’s] lights on, pumps natural gas into [one’s] water heater, for far less money than it would cost if [one] had to do it on [one’s] own. It keeps food manufacturers from poisoning [one], and inspects the restaurants [one] visits, the buildings [one] lives and works in, the cars that whizz by [one] on the freeway. It created the internet [one] works on, and much of the medication and vaccines [from which one] has benefited. It educated most of the people who fix [one’s] dishwasher, [one’s] car, [one’s] hair, [one’s] dog. All of that is perfectly okay. But health care for people drowning in rising premiums?…[T]here the benefits must stop, there the line must be drawn.[emphasis mine]

Amanda Explains It All to You

Or at least why the best case for BarryO and Co. is that I’m just not going to bother to vote for the next several years:

Apparently, the American swing voter tends to think, “If I’m going to get screwed over, I want it to be by someone who is aggressive as possible about it.”

That’s pretty much the summary of it.

Hint to Rahm Emmanuel: when you run a candidate with “I’m going to fix Health Insurance by adding a Public Option” at the center of his platform and then make it worse, do not be surprised when the voters decide that your candidate and His Party are not worth the trouble of voting.

UPDATE: Dr. Black disagrees. This is the sad part of being trained to believe Rational Expectations theory. As with other forms of Early Indoctrination, leaving the Alliance doesn’t mean you leave the no-longer-explored assumptions.

Time Series Analysis

From what I can tell, this is an accurate sequence:

  1. 6 August 2001: Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) given to GWB entitled “bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US.”
  2. 11 September 2001: On the 36th Anniversary of Augusto Pinochet’s US-President-ordered, CIA-supported, Coup in Chile, Bin Laden’s forces, weel, strike in the US.
  3. ca. 26 October 2004: Anthony “Van” Jones signs “truth petition” which requests investigation into, among other things, “unanswered questions that suggest that people within the current administration may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen.”
  4. 04 September 2006: Condoleezza Rice admits (1) above publicly at the 9-11 Commission hearings, eliminating the last vestige of plausible* deniability about foreknowledge of the attacks within, and at the highest levels of, the Administration.
  5. 06 September 2009: Three years and three days after Ms. Rice admitted that the GWB Administration—in the kindest possible interpretation—allowed 11 Sep 2001 to happen,** Van Jones resigns from the current Administration because he (along with John Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus Gray, a former Bush Administraion official, and a previous Ambassador to Iraq) exercised an American’s First Amendment rights (“to petition the government for a redress of grievances“) with a resulting inquiry that confirmed the justness of the original Petition.

Don’t worry; nothing to see there. Right?

*No, declaring that you considered the PDB to be a discussion of “history” is not plausible in any real sense of that word.
**Whether as an act of malice or incompetence is left as an exercise, with the clear possibility of a spectrum of answers depending upon which officials are discussed.

Clinton derangement syndrome

rdan

Joe Conason of Salon gets this one right.

Here was an effort that exemplified the best of America — a society that values the lives of its citizens enough to send a former head of state, with all the power of government behind him, to the aid of two women in distress. Here was a happy reunion, bringing wives home to their husbands and a mother back to her little girl, that surely uplifted the spirit of anyone who actually believes in family values. Here was a moment of pride and joy.

But not for Gordon Liddy, the demented felon and radio bigot who cackled about “Ling Ling and Wee Wee being locked up for nine hours in an airplane with Bill Clinton.” Not for Rush Limbaugh, the obsessive guttersnipe who wondered aloud whether Clinton “hit on those two female journalists on the long flight home.” Not for Andrea Peyser, the curdled tabloid columnist who insisted that “the whole shebang was nakedly scripted and staged as a device to help rehabilitate the image of former President Bill Clinton”(and who neglected to mention that Clinton did not speak to the eagerly waiting press corps and has given not a single interview on the North Korea mission). Not for Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who predictably seized on Clinton’s mission as an opportunity for gratuitous and ugly insults to his wife, weirdly imagining that the prisoner release was “some clever North Korean revenge plot, giving the limelight to Daddy to punish Mommy.” And not for the editors of the Huffington Post, who posted a very strange headline — “Bill Upstages Hillary … Once Again” — on an Associated Press story that didn’t mention her at all.

Of course the visit was scripted-it probably took a lot of negotiation. Such ex-presidential forays into particular situations has precedent for those who negotiate. But crude innuendo at the expense of these two women and their families is wrong. And to be thinking that the visit was done without Department of State input and approval strikes me as stupid. Let it be folks, your ratings are okay.

A Response to Megan McArdle, Again (by cactus)

by cactus

Megan McArdle responds to a post I wrote:

So Obama doesn’t count because he’s not really a Democrat. But Bill Clinton was. But Richard Nixon–the chap who implemented price controls and massively expanded Social Security and Medicare–was definitely a Republican. Jimmy Carter, who deregulated like mad: definitely a Democrat.

What are these policies that neatly define Democrats to exclude only the ones who happen to have crappy growth? On what metric does Barack Obama register as farther to the right than Bill Clinton? Because from what I remember of the 1990s, I spent most of the decade listening to my genuinely left-wing friends weep that he’d betrayed them. Remember Edelman’s resigning in protest of welfare reform?

I thought it was unnecessary at this point to explain the one thing I’ve pointed out time and again differentiates Republicans from Democrats. I think the first time was here. (I tend not to break out JFK from LBJ, or Nixon from Ford because JFK and Ford only served a short time, but the post that is attached is illustrative of behavior, not performance.)

The difference is the tax burden – that is, the percentage of people’s income that gets collected in taxes. Not the marginal rate – the amount people actually pay divided by the amount they make. And there is a difference, a big difference. As an example: George Herbert Walker Bush famously raised marginal rates. It might have cost him an election. But GHW Bush also quietly lowered the tax burden. He did it through the people he appointed to the IRS, through the degree of compliance he sought, through the way his IRS interpreted existing rules and regulations and through how the body of tax rules and regulations changed while he was in office.

Going back to 1952 at least, every Democrat, every single one, has increased the tax burden. Every single Republican raised lowered [h/t Bruce Webb] them. The data in the attached post is from the IRS and goes back only to 1952, but one can wander over to the BEA’s NIPA Table 2.1 and compute the tax burden ourselves with National Income data going back to 1929, and whaddaya know, the rule also works for Hoover, FDR, and Truman. Just barely for Truman… but then he is the exception on performance too, right?

Now, I doubt you could find a single person on the right of the political spectrum who would tell you that taxes don’t affect economic growth. They all believe taxes affect growth. Of course, the story they tell is that cutting taxes produces faster economic growth. The fact is, however, the Presidents who cut tax burdens tended to produce slower economic growth than those who raised taxes. (I’ve discussed why in a number of other posts, and I don’t feel like rehashing or looking for those posts now. I also note this isn’t just true of Presidents. My fellow Angry Bear, Spencer, once pointed out that there are a lot of people out there who seem to think we’d all be better off if the country was Alabama than if it was Massachussetts.)

Unfortunately, tax burden data, like any other bit of real world data, fluctuates somewhat from year to year, so its really going to be a while before we know what direction they’re really headed over O’s administration. As in, several years. And most of us are impatient. So we’d like to have some leading indicators, so to speak, of what Obama is going to do, of where he’s going to fall on the one R v. D divide that really matters. And right now, he’s behaving like the folks who have cut tax burdens in the past. He’s also talking like them. His bail-out is identical to GW’s, and when he talks about taxes, it doesn’t sound like Clinton, it sounds like GW. So its reasonable to wonder whether he’s going to stick to the R v. D rule. And the next test coming up is healthcare; a D would be putting his political capital on the public option right now. An R wouldn’t. What’s it gonna be, we’ll soon see.

More below the fold.

Now, in Megan’s post, she refers to “Cactus and his merry band of madmen.” I’m not sure the merry band of madmen over here truly have a leader, much less that I’m the one (Dan is the official grand poobah in charge of the blog, after all!!) but I’m guessing you aren’t a part of that merry band of madmen if any of the following apply to you:

  1. You do not believe that since 1929 at least, every single D has increased the tax burden and every single R has decreased the tax burden, despite the fact that the data shows precisely this, and despite the fact that it fits the caricature of Ds and Rs to a T, so to speak.
  2. You do not believe that since 1929, Ds have generally outperformed Rs when it comes to real economic growth, despite the fact that the data shows precisely this.
  3. You do not believe that administrations that cut the tax burden have also generally been the administrations that grew more rapidly, despite 1. and 2.
  4. You do not believe that the tax burden could possibly have anything to do with growth.

If you do believe these things, if you believe what the data shows , I’m sorry to say but you’re one of us, one of the merry band of madmen. On the other hand, if you fit these rules, there are a whole lot of folks out there, Megan McArdle included, who would consider you sane.

Political Will has always been a Debased Coin

Gary Farber lays out the details of who the real “silent majority” were in the Nixon Administration’s approach to Viet Nam, using Nixon’s own words.

Such as this, from 20 January 1973—two years and three months before the ultimate U.S. withdrawal:

Nixon realized that the Communists were going to win in Vietnam. “I look at the tide of history out there,” he said in the Oval Office, “South Vietnam probably can never even survive anyway.”

Go read the whole thing.

Those Who Think the "Left of Center" is Too Tough on N. Gregory Mankiw

should read Sensible Centrist J. Bradford DeLong on the difference in forecasting between the current Administration and the CEA under N. Gregory Mankiw.

Romer/Bernstein/Kreuger et al., 2008-9 edition:

As I understand matters, last December the median private-sector forecast had the unemployment rate topping out at 9% in the second half of 2009. The incoming Obama administration simply adopted that forecast. At the time I thought that was a mistake: (I thought that was a mistake: I thought they should have made a bifurcated forecast with a “good case” 80th-percentile scenario and a “bad case” 20th-percentile scenario; they should then have stressed that in the bad case we would need a large stimulus indeed to prevent high unemployment, and that in the good case we could restrain inflation via monetary policy.)

Mankiw et al., 2003 edition:

it would make it extremely difficult for things to happen like what happened to the Mankiw CEA over the winter of 2003-2004, when high politics appears to have reached down into the forecast, changed the table for payroll employment (and only payroll employment: the rest of the forecast is not out of line with contemporary professional forecasts), and produced an estimate for December 2004 (a) inconsistent with the rest of the forecast, and (b) high by 2.3 million in its estimate of payroll employment–all because Karl Rove and company thought it important to avoid headlines like “Bush administration forecasts 2004 payroll employment to be less than when Bush took office.” (link from original)

The positive-spin version is that Mankiw plays politics better than the Obama Team.

UPDATE: Kauffman Foundation invitee Mark Thoma adds to the fun.