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

Media Handlers

An it would be amusing if it weren’t disturbing story in the NYT today on how the White House stages events and lighting and backdrops to market the president. For example,

  • “…On Tuesday, at a speech promoting his economic plan in Indianapolis, White House aides went so far as to ask people in the crowd behind Mr. Bush to take off their ties, WISH-TV in Indianapolis reported, so they would look more like the ordinary folk the president said would benefit from his tax cut.” [emphasis mine].
  • “…For a speech that Mr. Bush delivered last summer at Mount Rushmore, the White House positioned the best platform for television crews off to one side, not head on as other White Houses have done, so that the cameras caught Mr. Bush in profile, his face perfectly aligned with the four presidents carved in stone.”
  • “…Mr. Sforza and his aides had choreographed every aspect of the [Abraham Lincoln] event, even down to the members of the Lincoln crew arrayed in coordinated shirt colors over Mr. Bush’s right shoulder and the “Mission Accomplished” banner placed to perfectly capture the president and the celebratory two words in a single shot.”

It’s worth a read. On a more substantive level, is it just me or is there a barely detectible shifting in the tone of the press, toward a more skeptical tone regarding Bush’s policies and proclamations? Not so much in what’s being reported (e.g., no “missing year” stories), but rather in the way it’s being said–the tone in an increasing number of stories seems more questioning. From 1999-recently, my most common reaction to a story covering Bush was, “Did Rove write this?”, and I’m getting that less of late. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I’ll keep looking for examples. If Somerby is correct, the press aren’t right wing or anti-democrat, just lazy and mindless. So when a few start leaning in one direction, the rest follow (it’s not exactly that they all plagiarize each other, but the end result is largely the same).


I talked about a related subject here, where I speculated “…after the flow comes the ebb. Will conservative news/commentary go the way of Reality TV and Millionaire? I don’t know, but MSNBC is doing its best to drive the format into the ground (of course, for MSNBC’s programming choices to actually affect viewer tastes, somebody would presumably actually have to be watching MSNBC–call me an optimist).”

Red vs. Blue

Atrios points out that Red states are stealing from blue states. So I went to the full report Atrios cites, added some color-coding, and made some graphs. While the subsidies are much larger in the Red states (those that in principle dislike government subsidizing anything), they are not quite as bad as I thought. I suspect the explanation is that our system is designed to favor smaller states by giving them disproportionate representation in the Senate (two per state) and the Electoral College (1 per member of Congress, so a three vote minimum). Still, the citizens of conservative states don’t seem particularly opposed to federal largesse (It’s always fun to listen to Ted Stevens of Alaska–a top beneficiary–rant and rave against the govenment).

It looks like there’s something funny in the graphs because you might expect that everything has to average out to one. My guess is that they are using income taxes paid by each state and transfers made to each state. Since the government has other sources of revenue (e.g., tariffs), it can pay out more than it collects in taxes. Overall, a small majority of Blue states get less than $1.00 returned back per dollar put in, while the vast majority (27/31) of Red states break even or better. (Click on each image to get the full size version).



UPDATE: Commenter Ross raises the obvious (to him, not me): “Do you think the discrepency between revenues and spending/ transfers to the states may represent deficit?” To which I answer, of course! Although the deficit wasn’t at today’s level in 2001, this is surely the biggest part of the explanation.

UPDATE: Oops, Gore won Oregon. Luckily, since Oregon is dollar for dollar even, it doesn’t really change the basic point.

UPDATE: Atrios points out correctly that these are per-capita figures and that population-weighting could change the picture (see the comments for that and for my response). He or she is right, but the most populous blue states tend to be net payees to the other states (and also tend to be blue), so they will still be net losers. How much so? Atrios did the work that I didn’t do:

“So, I went to the raw data on all of that and wasted too many a few minutes punching it in. In total, “blue” states get 94 cents for every dollar they send to the Feds, and “red” states get $1.08.”

By my earlier logic, Atrios should have come up with a bigger gap than I did, but he didn’t. It may be accounted for by me excluding DC (a huge per capita beneficiary), while Atrios may have counted DC as blue; Atrios probably also correctly counted Oregon as blue. Maybe I’ll look into it over the weekend.

Food for thought: does all of this mean that we should lower taxes in Blue states and lower spending in Red states?

UPDATE: Red vs. Blue Income Numbers here; a brief argument for why liberalism causes economic growth here.

Stephen Moore

CalPundit made a great catch, noting that Stephen Moore, president of the Club for Growth (a lobbying group devoted to Supply Side policies–Moore is on CNN, Fox, …, writes opinion pieces that appear in major newspapers, and gets quoted fairly often) can’t do simple math. This likely explains his devotion to Supply Side Economics. National Review Online, which published the faulty piece, has since changed the math, without noting the error.

This made me wonder whether Moore has a Ph.D.–he doesn’t. But I did find something that explains a bit about Dick Armey:

Mr. Moore served as a Senior Economist at the Joint Economic Committee under Chairman Dick Armey of Texas. There, he advised Mr. Armey on budget, tax, and competitiveness issues. He was also an architect of the Armey flat tax proposal now before Congress.

I’m not sure if this means that Armey’s misguidedness caused him to hire Moore, or whether hiring Moore caused Armey to become misguided–though I suspect it’s the former. Incidentally, Moore has an MA in Economics from George Mason University. Typically, though not always, people get masters in Economics as a sort of consolation prize when they can’t pass the qualifying exams at the end of the first or second year (Economics is a bit unusual in that very few people enter terminal Masters in Economics programs, because that degree just doesn’t do much for you, so few schools offer them. Instead, you get a Masters by entering a Ph.D. program and then dropping out along the way).


I Didn’t Think this Would Make it Through the Senate

From the NYT, among others: “Republicans Woo Moderates on Tax Cut“. It looks like the Republicans have 50 votes in the Senate, with Dick Cheney holding the tie-breaking 51st, for an amendment to replace the Grassley-proposed and Senate Finance Committee approved version of the dividend tax cut. Zell Miller voted for the tax cut (as I predicted here), and Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska (Red State) also will vote ‘aye’. Voinovich gave in to pressure and agreed to vote yes, stating “[this plan] gets the biggest bang for the buck that we can possibly get” (rather Panglossian).

Technically, Voinovich did not reverse course as the plan comes in at $350b. Of course it only achieved that number via the dishonest accounting of sunset provisions: 1/2 of dividend income is excluded from taxation in 2004, followed by 100% of dividend income from 2005-2007, at which point the exclusion will in principle sunset (so the 10-year cost of the tax cut uses the assumption that dividends will be taxed from 2008 onward). Still, this plan will cost much more in lost revenues than Grassley’s. How did they add this cut and still keep under $350b?

The more robust dividend plan shaves tax cuts for married couples and small businesses to make room for more dividend breaks in the bill, which cuts taxes $350 billion over the coming decade [according to Sen. Don Nickles (R-Ok)].


Olympia Snow held her ground (“My position hasn’t changed”). And the story didn’t say, but it looks like Chafee and Collins also stood firm (48 Democrats + Jeffords + Chafee + Collins + Snow – Miller – Nelson = 50).


X-Posted at ISTES.

UPDATE: Via A Taxing Blog, this Brookings Institute analysis of three tax cut options–$726b, $550b, and $350b (“Our overarching conclusion is that the Administration, House, and Senate Finance Committee proposals are seriously flawed and are strikingly removed from the economy’s current and long-term problems”). It’s good, if very slightly wonky.

More Jayson Blair

Eric Boehlert of Salon has a story devoted to the race angle. One quote from Jim Dwyer, “a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at the Times” struck me as interesting:

…”I’ve worked at six newspapers and seen alcoholic shipwrecks and drug shipwrecks, and people who’ve fallen apart through nervous breakdowns, and they’re all brought back and given a second chance. I’ve seen it happen to people of every race”.

Also, I now have to add Mike Barnicle and Jeff Jacoby to the list of errant reporters who were not affirmative action hires. Jacoby amusingly copied an old Ann Landers piece on What Happened to the Founding Fathers? without attribution and as the product of his own research–this was a story that previously made the email and AM radio circuits. And many of the details of the purloined stories are false–as I said before, it’s easiest to catch the unskilled plagiarizers.


The 25th Ammendment…

…can be read here. Basically, the President gets to comeback when he says he’s ready, and it takes a majority of the cabinet to initiate a Congressional vote to prevent the President’s return. Should that occur, it takes a 2/3 majority of both houses to prevent the President from returning to office when he feels like it. It was passed by Congress July 6, 1965 and ratified February 10, 1967. I don’t know much of the history behind this, but presumably in the wake of JFK’s assassination there were concerns about preserving stability should the President be incapacitated.

The amendment also says that should a Congressional vote be required, Congress must meet and vote within 21 days (23 days if out of session), leading me to wonder what would happen if a group of legislators opposed to the President’s reinstatement blocked a quorum by simply hiding out in Canada or Mexico? [Note to West Wing writers: with Sorkin and the show’s director now gone, you may be in need of script ideas for next season. This one is for sale].


P.S. This is in relation to tonight’s episode of The West Wing, not some real-world event.

Jayson Blair Update

The Washington Post has a opinion piece on Jayson Blair, by Terry Neal. Apparently, I should have included Ruth Shalit in my list of noted plagiarizers who were not beneficiaries of any affirmative action programs. I like Neal’s take on why Blair, and other plagiarizers, do so well (until they are caught):

…Here’s my theory: Freed from the normal constraints of truth and veracity, “journalists” such as Blair, Shalit, Barnicle, Smith and Glass shine above their counterparts. They’re promoted ahead of the pack because their stories, sneakily cloaked as journalism, read better than everyone else’s stories. In a profession fueled by competition, their careers are propelled along because of, rather than in spite of, their transgressions…To suggest somehow that Blair is unique in being coddled by upper management is pure buffoonery.”


No to Tax Cuts Debt Increases

Matt Stoller has what I think is a pretty good suggestion. And it’s much more accurate than, for example, calling the “estate tax” the “death tax” (only a small proportion of those who die are subject to estate taxes).


The Battle is Won

No, sadly not the War on Terrorism, just AB’s battle against the Axis of Frustration (Blogger, Templates, HTML) and its weapons of extreme annoyance: style sheets, screen resolution, table width and placement, TR and TD, valign,….

Unless I’m crazy, Angry Bear is now viewable without horizontal scrolling in resolutions from 800×600 to at least 1280×1024. In 1024×768 or higher resolution, you can see all of Angry Bear. In 800×600, you should see the left hand panel and the blog text, though you have to scroll right to see the archives (look soon for a button on the bottom of the left panel that says “Archives” and takes you to the top of the right panel Done!). All three resolutions have been tested in both IE and Opera. In Opera, the title doesn’t show up for some reason, just a big orange rectangle (my next project), but other than that, Done! everything is fine in both. Comments now work in both Opera and IE, on PCs and Macs, though I had to take out some of the extras like bullet list and font formatting.

Normal posting should resume tomorrow.


UPDATE: There were a few more skirmishes, but they are done now, as reflected by the above striken-through text.