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

Democratic Primary News

First off, congrats to AB on hitting the 50,000 mark Monday!

Second, here’s a piece of interesting and brand new Democratic primary news: Howard Dean’s campaign has put up “the bat” – i.e., their fundraising goal for the last 10 days of the quarter (which ends September 30). Their goal is pretty astonishing.

You may remember that at the end of the previous quarter, the Dean campaign blew everyone away by raising well over $7 million, which was millions ahead of his nearest rival. The record for fundraising in any quarter by a Democrat during the primary season is held by Bill Clinton, who raised $10.3 million in this quarter in 1996. One last piece of context: the highest estimates of funds raised by Gephardt, Kerry, or anyone else for this quarter are around $5 million.

The newly announced Dean campaign goal is to raise $5 million… in just 10 days.

Based on that, I would guess that their overall total for the quarter will therefore be in the neighborhood of $14 – $15 million. Which will truly make Dean the 800 pound gorilla of the Democratic candidates. Whatever your preference regarding the 10 Democratic candidates is, this has to contribute to the notion that it’s going to be really tough for anyone to stop Dean from getting the nomination at this point. Is it time to get used to a Dean v. Bush matchup?

Kash

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Angry Bear Milestone

If you look at the hit counter (it counts unique IPs per day, not page views) at the bottom of the left panel sometime between 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. on Monday, you should see a number in the 50,000s! I’ve been a “Large Mammal” on N.Z. Bear’s Blogosphere Ecosystem for a while now and traffic is growing steadily, now averaging around 400 visits per day. I’m aiming high and hoping to hit 1,000 a day by year’s end.

Thanks to Dave Neiwert of Orcinus, who gave me my first link. Thanks also to Atrios and Matt Yglesias (also, here) for some early promotion; occasional links from CalPundit also helped drive traffic. I should also thank Mary Beth, Dwight Meredith, Charles Kuffner, Matt Stoller, and others who I’m unintentionally omitting.

Thanks also to Kash for his contributions. And of course, thanks to all the regular readers and welcome to new readers.

AB

UPDATE: It looks like visitor 50,000 hails from the University of New Mexico.

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Texas Democrats: What Next?

Charles Kuffner is collecting posts:

Today a group of progressive Texas bloggers are all posting on the subject “What Texas Democrats Should Do Next”. The following is a link to everyone’s post for today’s blogburst, which will be updated through the day as they come in. Please take the time to visit these links and see what a diverse group of people think needs to be done to make the Democrats more effective in Texas.

Check it out.

AB

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Repeat Formula

In his latest budget, Bush proposed $8 billion in tax incentives aimed at domestic energy producers. The incentives take the form of accelerated depreciation and deferred taxation on new oil and gas exploration and pipeline capacity. While I’m ambivalent about the wisdom of that, there is at least a reasonable argument in favor: natural gas prices are very high; also, if we increase domestic oil production without going into ANWR, that’s probably a good thing. The interesting part is that in the mark-up stage, the House “tax cut and spend” Republicans increased the incentives to $19b.

Now Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and a some Senate Republicans, along with the White House, are saying that $19b is too much. See the pattern? The proposal comes in at $8b in new incentives, then in committee it gets inflated to $19b, allowing the White House to then come out as fiscally disciplined when they hold the line at $8b. The initial proposal becomes the compromise position.

This is similar to, though in a slightly different order, the strategy behind the most recent Bush Birth Tax Increase Tax Cut: Bush proposes $750b, Congress (allegedly) trims it to $350b, we then get to hear the leader of the Free World use the phrase “little bitty” (*) to describe the reduced package, and then the package passes (though its true price tag is well over $350b). In the process, $350b becomes the compromise proposal and passes. Republicans get to call themselves fiscally conservative because they reigned in Bush’s dramatic proposal.

Expect to see this play repeated until it stops working.

AB

(*) According to sources, Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson narrowly saved the dignity of the President and the nation during a last minute rewrite of the speech, replacing “itsy bitsy” with “little bitty” — “teenie weenie” having been rejected in an even earlier draft.(**)

     (**) This probably did not actually happen.

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Update on Steel Tariffs

I’ve taken a close look at the ITC’s newly-released report on the impact of Bush’s steel tariffs (see my earlier post for more). Here are some selected bits of information that I’ve drawn from the report:

– Since the tariffs caused the price of their biggest input (steel) to go up, steel-consuming firms, such as auto parts producers, appliance manufacturers, construction firms, etc. have reduced employment. The US economy has lost between 33,500 and 50,000 manufacturing jobs as a direct result of the tariffs.

– Many steel-using firms – almost one out of ten – have moved significant amounts of production offshore to remain competitive in the face of the steel tariffs.

– Overall, US workers earned about $400 million less in wages during the year after the tariff, as a direct result.

– Employment in the steel industry itself has continued to fall. Employment fell by 26,000 (6.9%) in the year before the tariffs were imposed. But employment fell by 37,000 (10.6%) in the year after the tariffs. There is no estimate of whether the tariff had much impact on this continuing loss of jobs, but from this data it is obvious that it has not saved many jobs, if it saved any at all.

Presumably the Bush administration imposed the tariffs to try to help US manufacturing. (Though of course one could argue that the tariffs were purely a political calculation, and that the Bushies didn’t care about manufacturing jobs in general.) These reports therefore document yet another pathetic failure of the Bush administration.

Kash

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Americans’ Net Worth Up 10%!

Well, not all Americans, but if you are one of the 400 richest people in the country then, on average, your income is up 10%. If, on the other hand, you are part of the other 90%, then you are now paying higher interest rates on your loans, and bearing your share of the debt created by the Bush administration’s “tax cuts for the wealthy and spend” policy, and more likely to be or become unemployed than you were a few years ago.

Interestingly, the two richest people on the list are both Democrats and both opposed ending the estate tax. Buffet also vigorously opposed reducing or eliminating the dividend tax (I don’t know where Gates came down on that one).

AB

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Bush the Diplomat

MSNBC NEWS SERVICES Sept. 19 — With little chance that a resolution on Iraq will be approved quickly, President Bush is pinning his hopes on face-to-face diplomacy — including meetings with two of the most vocal critics of his policy in Iraq, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder — during his visit to the United Nations in New York on Tuesday.

An excellent chance to put Bush’s outstanding diplomatic skills to work.

Kash

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Yet Another Bush Failure: Steel Tariffs

Later today the International Trade Commission (ITC) will release its midterm report about the effects of the steel tariffs that Bush imposed in March of 2002. It looks like the steel tariffs have been yet another Bush failure.

The Washington Post discusses why, and has a fascinating peek into the Bush Administration’s internal debate over the steel tariffs. The President who, while campaigning for President said that free trade was “not just monetary, but moral,” and that he would “work to end tariffs and break down barriers everywhere, entirely, so the whole world trades in freedom,” imposed the highest tariffs the US has had on steel in decades. Estimates mentioned in the Post article suggest that the steel tariffs have cost the US tens or potentially hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs over the past 18 months – and more importantly to the Bush administration, the tariffs have potentially cost them support in crucial swing states without winning the support of steel unions. That’s why the ITC report will make interesting reading. Well, okay, at least the summary will make interesting reading.

The real question is this: will the Bush administration realize that the steel tariffs have backfired, and reverse course? They have the option of reducing or eliminating the tariffs, if they wish. Which brings us to my favorite line from the Post article:

The only reason they won’t do it [remove the tariffs] is if they’re unwilling to admit they made a mistake,” said a Republican strategist who works closely with the White House.

Good thing this White House has so clearly demonstrated the ability to admit it when they make a mistake. Anyone want to place odds on the chances that they’ll reverse their steel policy?

Kash

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US Morale in Iraq is Good. Really.

Today’s Guardian contains a powerful commentary written by Tim Predmore, a US soldier who has been serving with the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq since the beginning of hostilities. It starts off with this:

For the past six months, I have been participating in what I believe to be the great modern lie: Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Luckily, the Bush administration and the Pentagon assure us that things are going well in Iraq, and that morale among the US troops in Iraq is good. Whew. So we don’t have to worry when Predmore writes:

I once believed that I was serving for a cause – “to uphold and defend the constitution of the United States”. Now I no longer believe that; I have lost my conviction, as well as my determination. I can no longer justify my service on the basis of what I believe to be half-truths and bold lies.

Read the piece.

Kash

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