Saturday, July 30, 2011

Blogging has been lighter...

...than usual due to a family emergency. I've been spending much of the last week at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. I'll have more to say about my experience there, but in the meantime I can share two thoughts:

(1) While most of the doctors nowadays seem to be women, most of the nurses seem to be men; and

(2) Even if the doctor who is about to perform a crucial procedure on your son bears a striking resemblance to Willie Nelson, don't -- repeat, don't -- ask him if he's "kind of a hippie doctor." (You may feel a little like Jerry Seinfeld did when he tried to arrange a wake-up call for his marathoner friend, Jean Paul: "I think I just alienated the wake-up guy!")

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tea Party leader Joe Walsh... getting sued for back child support (my emphasis):

Freshman U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, a tax-bashing Tea Party champion who sharply lectures President Barack Obama and other Democrats on fiscal responsibility, owes more than $100,000 in child support to his ex-wife and three children, according to documents his ex-wife filed in their divorce case in December.

“I won’t place one more dollar of debt upon the backs of my kids and grandkids unless we structurally reform the way this town spends money!” Walsh says directly into the camera in his viral video lecturing Obama on the need to get the nation’s finances in order.

Walsh starts the video by saying, “President Obama, quit lying. Have you no shame, sir? In three short years, you’ve bankrupted this country.”

Robert Goodlatte... a Republican Congressman from Virginia.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

G. D. Spradlin, who...

...had quite a career before he became an actor, died at age 90:

Gervase Duan Spradlin was born on Aug. 31, 1920, in Pauls Valley, Okla., and grew up on a farm. A son of schoolteachers, he earned a degree in education from the University of Oklahoma in 1941 and then taught history. In World War II he served in the Army Air Forces in China as an air traffic controller. After his discharge he returned to the University of Oklahoma and earned a law degree in 1948.

He went to work for the Phillips Petroleum Company, first as head of its legal department in Caracas, Venezuela, then in Oklahoma City. In 1951, he teamed up with a geologist to drill their own oil wells. Mr. Spradlin made a fortune, retired in 1960 and spent a year and a half sailing in the Bahamas with his family.

It wasn’t enough. “Being rich changes surprisingly little,” he said in an interview with The Los Angeles Times in 1967. “You still have to have an absorbing interest in life, something to do to make you feel alive.”

He ran Senator John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign in Oklahoma in 1960, and he himself ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Oklahoma City in 1965. That year he earned a master’s degree in Latin American studies from the University of Miami.

Dan Peek, lead singer...

...for the group "America," died at age 60.

Brad Thorson, University of Kansas...

...offensive lineman (and my godson), signed with the Arizona Cardinals and will report to training camp next month. Go Brad!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Today must be...

...graph day at BOWG. This one is from The Wall Street Journal Paul Krugman's blog. It illustrates how Europe has closed the unemployment gap with the United States in recent years (my emphasis):

More detailed analysis shows that the remaining gap comes from lower employment rates in Europe for the young and old; prime-age workers, especially men, are if anything more likely to be working in Europe.

And you should note that this European performance comes despite the fact that tax levels and levels of social benefits are vastly higher than they are here. Any US politician proposing even a partial move in Europe’s direction would be accused of being a job-killer. Somehow, though, the jobs survive.

Oh, and as many people have noticed, America now has European levels of joblessness without a European safety net. We’re definitely leading in the misery race.

This chart shows...

...just who, exactly, is more responsible for today's federal budget deficit.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Finally, someone on the right...

...understands the necessity of the individual mandate. Avik Roy, writing in the conservative National Review, says repealing it:

...would totally destabilize the private insurance market. The Obamacare individual mandate is relatively weak, as mandates go; but repealing it, while maintaining the law’s requirements that insurers take all comers regardless of age or health, will drive insurers out of business, in what economists call the “adverse selection death spiral.”

George Will should retire.

Yesterday, on This Week, the 70-year-old columnist said that the Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, no longer had credibility with House Republicans. My jaw dropped. I wanted to scream at the TV, "The field of economics no longer has credibility with the Republican Party! Reality no longer has credibility with this bunch!"

But no sooner did I compose myself than Mr. Will said that the House Republicans had already passed two budgets, the Ryan Plan and "Cut, Cap and Balance." Was he serious? (Again with the jaw dropping.) I wanted to ask Will if he could name one -- one -- mainstream economist who had endorsed either of these cockamamie plans. Even Representative Ryan didn't take his plan seriously: "It's not a budget, it's a cause."

Really, someone who's close to George Will, someone who loves him, needs to tell him to retire.

A Prayer for John Tracy

I know what you're thinking: that's an odd title for a post by someone who doesn't pray. Actually, I got the idea from a novel I just picked up by John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany. It was recommended to me by someone, but the title is what really hooked me; it just sounds right.

John Tracy is my 18-year-old son and he's going through what may be the most difficult time of his life.

So am I asking for your prayers? And does this mean, once and for all, that there are no atheists in foxholes? Not exactly; I'm still not a believer. (Nor is John Tracy, as far as I know.) But I guess what I am asking for is your good thoughts. And that's probably what prayer is, anyway: good thoughts.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Just when I thought...

...the Republicans might unite behind one candidate, Mike Huckabee had this to say about Rick Perry:

For all his new found commitment to hyper-conservatism, he’ll get to explain why he supported pro-abortion, pro-same sex marriage Rudy Guiliani last time.

Will Rogers (above) once said, "I'm not a member of any organized political party; I'm a Democrat." And the same could be said of today's Republican Party.

The bad name of the day...

...belongs to Ed Flesh, who died Friday at age 79.

Prediction time: Governor Rick Perry...

...of Texas will announce for president soon, unite the tea party and establishment wings of the Republican Party, and win the GOP nomination in 2012.

And then ... Perry will get fewer votes against President Obama than John McCain did in 2008. That gun lovin', evangelical, tea party, Texas governor schtick just won't play with independents, particularly in the northern suburbs. And if Perry drags other Republican candidates down with him a la Barry Goldwater in 1964, look for the Republicans to engage in some serious soul-searching afterward.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

To give you an idea...

...of just how irrational House Republicans have become, this is from the National Review (my emphasis):

The conservatives in the House who say they will never, ever vote to increase the debt limit need to realize they are handing all of the leverage to President Obama. To begin with, the budget they support — the Ryan budget that the House Republicans voted for nearly unanimously in April —requires a large debt-limit increase. Indeed, there’s no conceivable budget plan out there that doesn’t require one.

Larry Summers was asked... Charlie Rose the other night, "What would happen if Congress failed to raise the debt ceiling?"

"It would be 'the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy' on steroids." (In other words, you don't want to find out.)

The tea party Republicans in the House, on the other hand, think this is all hogwash.

Now while it's hard for me to believe that the unthinkable could actually happen (especially after the TARP vote in the fall of 2008), I've decided that there would be one positive result from a U. S. default: the end, once and for all, of the tea party movement.

I once heard it said...

...that there's nothing more annoying than an ex-Catholic who can't stop talking about the Catholic Church.

Now in my case, I've gotten pretty good at skipping over the articles in the paper about the Church. But this morning, I couldn't help reading about the new archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput (above).

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been particularly troubled in recent years and, like the rest of the Catholic Church, is in dire need of reform. So to whom did the Vatican turn to bring about change?

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput spent the last 14 years in Denver establishing himself as one of the nation’s most prominent advocates of a politically engaged and conservative Catholicism.

He is among a minority of Roman Catholic bishops who have spoken in favor of denying communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights. He helped defeat legislation that would have legalized civil unions for gay couples in Colorado. And he condemned the University of Notre Dame, a Catholic institution, for granting President Obama an honorary degree in 2009 because of his stance on abortion.

For these and other decisions stands, Archbishop Chaput has been hailed as a champion by not only Catholic conservatives, but also by evangelical Protestants.

That's right -- they doubled down. Apparently, the problem with Chaput's predecessor is that he wasn't conservative enough. But wait, there's more:

Advocates for sexual abuse victims bristle at the characterization of Archbishop Chaput as a reformer. They point out that he fought hard against legislation in Colorado that would have extended the statute of limitations for people who say they were sexually abused to sue the church.

Finally, according to Tom Reynolds, of Regis University, a Jesuit institution in Denver:

“He hasn’t always gotten along well with the folks who are on the liberal end, who want to move forward with Vatican II reforms,” referring to the Second Vatican Council.

Vatican II? That was in 1965! That represents the liberal end?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The political cartoon of the day:

A new PPP poll...

...out today has Michele Bachmann leading Mitt Romney (my emphasis):

Michele Bachmann's momentum continues to build and she's taken first place by the smallest of margins on PPP's newest national Presidential poll. 21% of Republican primary voters say she's their top choice to 20% for Mitt Romney, 12% for Rick Perry, 11% for Herman Cain, 9% for Ron Paul, 7% for Newt Gingrich, 5% for Tim Pawlenty, and 3% for Jon Huntsman.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Congresswoman is sinking fast on Intrade.

The best article I read today... about a 61-year-old named Diana Nyad:

Any day now, Diana Nyad will set out to do something no athlete has ever done: swim all day and all night, then all day and all night, then all day again.

She will swim about 60 hours in the churning sea (without a shark cage), 103 miles across the Straits of Florida from Cuba to Key West. Every hour and a half, she will stop to tread water for a few minutes as she swallows a liquid mixture of predigested protein and eats an occasional bit of banana or dollop of peanut butter. She will most likely hallucinate and endure the stings of countless jellyfish. Along the way, sea salt will swell her tongue to cartoonish proportions and rub her skin raw.

Read the rest of the piece here.

I hate to kick Tim Pawlenty...

...when he's down (okay, I don't), but I'd better hurry before he drops out of the race altogether. The chart above is from Paul Krugman's blog on a different subject. But it made me wonder where in the world Pawlenty came up with the assumption in his economic plan of 5 percent growth over ten years. Has the United States ever achieved that?

Prediction time: If Elizabeth Warren...

...runs for the Senate against Scott Brown in Massachusetts in 2012 (as more and more people expect), she will lose. Warren has never run for office before, and Brown is tremendously underrated as a politician.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Here's the best...

...commencement address I've ever heard. (Really, it's the only one I've ever actually listened to.)

I thought of Rick Perry...

...and his potential candidacy this morning when I read a piece in the Times about the victim of a hate crime in Texas. (Really, it must be a godforsaken place.) Here's the part that caught my attention (my emphasis):

Q: What was the extent of your injuries?

A: There were 38 pellets in my face. I couldn’t open my eyes or talk or open my jaw. I couldn’t even eat or drink anything. It was very painful to even swallow because I was shot in my throat. After a few hours in the hospital I could open my left eye. My face was heavily swollen. There were gunshot wounds. My face was horrible. I couldn’t believe it was my face. I prayed, “Please God, give me my face back.” ( Mr. Bhuiyan was discharged the day after being treated; he was told he did not have health insurance. For the next several months, he slept on people’s couches and had to rely on physicians’ samples for medication, including painkillers and eye drops. He had several operations on his right eye; he now has only limited vision in it.)

And I thought, do we really want a president who was the governor of a state with 25 percent uninsured, the highest in the nation? Is that supposed to be a good thing? How could that possibly be preferable to the Affordable Care Act, which I assume a President Perry would want to repeal?

What planet are these Republicans living on?

On Intrade, Rick Perry... rising fast while Michele Bachmann is dropping like a stone. Able to appeal to the Republican establishment and the tea party, the Texas governor might just overtake Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination. (Sorry, I just can't picture Romney making an acceptance speech at the convention in front of a crowd of adoring true believers. Can you?)

So imagine Rick Perry running against President Obama in 2012. If the candidate of Hope and Change crushed the stand-in for George Bush in 2008, how is an evangelical, tea party-sympathizing governor from Texas going to do any better? Won't this really be Obama-Bush redux?

Friday, July 15, 2011

I have a handyman named Ramon...

...doing some work on my house and, every time I see him, he seems to want to talk to me. It's like he wants to be my best friend or something. I feel like I've seen this show before...

Eric Cantor may prove to be...

...the big loser from the debt ceiling crisis. His irresponsible behavior could end up costing him a promising career in government.

From 1997 to 2010, the Tories... Britain suffered at the ballot box partly as a result of their reputation as the "Nasty Party." Today's Republicans run a similar risk -- becoming thought of as the "Crazy Party." In this morning's Times, Paul Krugman says:

There aren’t many positive aspects to the looming possibility of a U.S. debt default. But there has been, I have to admit, an element of comic relief — of the black-humor variety — in the spectacle of so many people who have been in denial suddenly waking up and smelling the crazy.

A number of commentators seem shocked at how unreasonable Republicans are being. “Has the G.O.P. gone insane?” they ask.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Here's an ad...

...currently running against Republican state senator Luther Olsen in the Wisconsin recall elections. According to Greg Sargent (my emphasis):

Here’s another reason why the Wisconsin recall battle is so important. It’s an early test of whether unabashed populism — and an aggressive defense of government’s role in safeguarding the quality of life of working and middle class Americans as preferable to the conservative austerity vision — can carry the day in a key swing state. The answer could provide early clues as to how the clash of ideologies between the major parties will play out in the national 2012 elections.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sherwood Schwartz, creator...

...of "Gilligan's Island" and "The Brady Bunch," died at age 94. For you trivia buffs:

The name of the boat on "Gilligan's Island" — the S.S. Minnow — was a bit of TV inside humor: It was named for Newton Minow, who as Federal Communications Commission chief in the early 1960s had become famous for proclaiming television "a vast wasteland."

David Leonhardt, writing in the Times..., says what I've been thinking for a while now: Americans expect certain services from their government and need to just grow up and pay for them. (David Stockman came to the same conclusion back in the 1980s in his book, The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed.)

From Leonhardt's piece, "Why Taxes Will Rise In the End" (my emphasis):

Polls show that most Americans are opposed to raising the federal debt ceiling. Even when the Pew Research Center included the consequences in its question — a national default that would damage the economy — slightly more people were against raising the ceiling than were for it.

How could this be? Above all, I think it reflects a desire to return to the good old days. Not so long ago, nobody was talking about tax increases or Medicare cuts, and the federal budget seemed to be in fine shape. If only we could get back to the past — get spending under control, as the cliché goes — we’d be O.K. The debt ceiling, with its harsh finality, offers the chance.

Unfortunately, this nostalgic view depends on a misunderstanding of the budget. It imagines a budget in which the United States indefinitely has the world’s highest medical costs, its largest military, an aging population and, nonetheless, taxes that are among the world’s lowest. Economists have a name for that combination: a free lunch.

Theodore Roszak, a college professor...

...who coined the term "counterculture," is dead at age 77.

Dr. Roszak’s book “The Making of a Counter Culture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society” had gone to press months before the [Woodstock Festival in 1969], displaying the exuberance and excesses of a generation rebelling against war and seeking new ways to be and think. But in serendipitously timely fashion, the book provided what many regarded as a profound analysis of the youth movement, finding its roots in a sterile Western culture that had prompted young people to seek spiritual meaning in LSD, exotic religions and even comic books.

Rob Grill, lead singer...

...of the Grass Roots, died at age 67.

The cartoon of the day:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Here's the best explanation...

...I've read so far on what, exactly, would happen if Congress failed to raise the debt ceiling (my emphasis):

The US government is the largest purchaser of goods and services on planet earth.

The government buys everything from equipment for cancer research to metal for warships to toothpicks for federal cafeterias. Suppose the government had to cut 44% from its budget on 2 weeks notice? How sharp a shock would that be to the world economy?

Here’s a comparative. In the worst quarter of 2009, American consumers cut their spending by … not 44%, not even 4.4%, but 1.2%. That 1.2% drop in consumer spending helped tumble the US economy into the worst collapse since the 1930s.

The US consumer sector is even larger than the federal government sector. But it’s not unimaginably larger. US consumers spend about about $10 trillion a year. The federal government spends about $3.4 trillion.

If a cut of 1.2% from $10 trillion was an economic shock, a cut of 44% from $3.4 trillion will be a much, much, much bigger shock.

The Republican establishment...

...must be getting nervous about Michele Bachmann (my emphasis):

Former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge said Tuesday that fellow Republican Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman who has been surging in the 2012 GOP presidential sweepstakes in recent weeks, was unelectable and unqualified to be commander-in-chief.

One of my favorite...

...TV shows, "Sister Wives," (we only watch highbrow television in our house) may be in trouble:

Kody Brown is a proud polygamist, and a relatively famous one. Now Mr. Brown, his four wives and 16 children and stepchildren are going to court to keep from being punished for it.

The family is the focus of a reality TV show, “Sister Wives,” that first appeared in 2010. Law enforcement officials in the Browns’ home state, Utah, announced soon after the show began that the family was under investigation for violating the state law prohibiting polygamy.

All kidding aside, they seem like a really happy family.

The cartoon of the day:

Maybe George Costanza...

...didn't invent the name "Seven." From today's Times:

Prince Twins Seven-Seven, a prominent Nigerian artist and leading representative of the Oshogbo School, whose brightly colored, intricately patterned paintings evoked the world of Yoruba folklore and religion, died on June 16 in Ibadan, Nigeria.

Week Two...

...of conservative columnist David Brooks calling out Congressional Republicans (my emphasis):

According to the Gallup Organization, only 20 percent of Americans believe the budget deal should consist of spending cuts only. Even among Republicans, a plurality believes there should be a mixture of tax increases and spending cuts.

Yet the G.O.P. is now oriented around this 20 percent. It is willing to alienate 80 percent of voters and commit political suicide because of its faith in the power of tax policy.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Life imitates art.

Victoria and David Beckham named their new baby girl "Harper Seven."

Now where have I heard that name before?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mike Bickle is the founder...

...of something called the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri. According to a piece in the Times today, it provides "an elaborate 24-hour system of worship, seen around the world on a live webcast."

Bickle sounds like a bit of a con artist to me:

The staff and students here are required to spend at least 25 hours a week in the prayer room, and they also engage in weekly fasts of a day or more. The focused worship, Mr. Bickle says, affects real-world events by weakening the demons and strengthening the angels that swirl among us. Most important, he says, the incantations, multiplied worldwide, may help usher in the long-awaited final days: seven years of bloody battles and disasters that will end with the Second Coming, with true Christians spirited to eternal bliss and everyone else doomed to hellfire.

Sound crazy to you? It does to me. And -- truth be told -- I have to wonder how intelligent his followers are. Then I got to the last two paragraphs:

Sarah Sun Kim, 32, came here for a three-month visit while she was a graduate student in politics at Harvard, working on nuclear weapons issues and North Korea. She has stayed for five years and is now vice president of the Bible college.

“I felt the emotions of God, that I could actually converse with him and he really loves me,” she said. “Now I believe my prayers will bring more change than what diplomats can do with policies and arms control theories.”

A graduate student at Harvard. How could that possibly be?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The best spy novel I ever read...

...wasn't even a novel. It was Witness, the memoirs of Whittaker Chambers. Published in 1952, Witness is the story of Chambers's life as a Communist and a spy for the Russians. It's also the story of his repudiation of Communism. According to Wikipedia:

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. called it one of the greatest of all American autobiographies, and Ronald Reagan credited the book as the inspiration behind his conversion from a New Deal Democrat to a conservative Republican.

Nearly sixty years after its publication, Witness is still a great read. I recommend it highly.

But this post isn't a book review. It's about ideologies and personal conversions. (And an observation about America today.)

I see parallels between the popularity of Communism during the Great Depression and America's renewed interest in libertarianism in these economic hard times.

(I also feel a bit of a kinship with Chambers in that he and I both renounced an ideology in mid-life. For Chambers it was Communism; for me it was libertarianism.)

Chambers's tale is a cautionary one, particularly for today. Like so many young Americans in the 1920s, Chambers was seduced by an ideology which -- like all ideologies (and religions) -- offered answers to all the questions of the universe. And, as the economy suffered in the '30s, Communism made even more sense to Chambers. So much so, in fact, that he became a spy for the Soviet government.

Gradually, however, Chambers grew to have doubts about Communism and went into hiding in the late '30s, eventually rejoining society. (That's only the first half of the book; I'll let you read the rest. Spoiler alert: Alger Hiss goes to jail and Richard Nixon becomes vice president.)

One of the reasons I so enjoyed Witness was that I could relate to it on a personal level. While I was never a spy (or lived nearly as colorful a life as Chambers), I was enthralled with my own ideology, libertarianism. I guess it began by growing up in a Republican house (a Goldwater one, no less) and reading The Conscience of a Conservative in high school. I moved on to Ayn Rand, Reason and Liberty magazines in my twenties, and even was a member of the Libertarian Party for a while.

But, like Chambers, I slowly developed doubts about my world view. And while I can't pinpoint any seminal moment or tipping point, the last straw for me was TARP. From everything I've read, without the government's bailout of the banking system the global economy would have certainly crashed. And that was it for me -- government was necessary.

But, despite TARP, the economy fell into recession anyway -- a Great One, in fact. And so just as I was abandoning libertarianism, millions of my fellow Americans were drawn in. I understand; it's natural to embrace ideologies, particularly during times of great stress.

So the tea party movement emerged and Ayn Rand fanatics like Paul Ryan took over the Republican Party.

How long will America's current fascination with libertarianism last? Until the economy fully recovers. And that could be a while.

But just like Chambers and so many others eventually turned away from Communism, so will Americans ultimately lose interest in the extreme libertarian philosophy that's gripping today's Republican Party -- and the nation. Like me, Americans will some day rediscover pragmatism.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Times has T-Paw...

...dead and buried today, Intrade is taking bets on whether or not he'll drop out of the race by February (78% chance), and his poll and money-raising numbers are anemic. But the former governor of Minnesota remains unfazed by it all (my emphasis):

The reason he’s lagging in the polls, Pawlenty told editors and reporters in a wide-ranging discussion with The Des Moines Register’s editorial board today, is that “this week is the first time that I’ve campaigned in earnest in Iowa.”

Pawlenty has made more campaign appearances here than any other candidate except former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

The unemployment report... was horrible -- only 18,000 jobs created in the month of June. Mark Thoma asks (my emphasis):

Why, again, are we spending so much legislative time trying to figure out how to cut the deficit in the short-run -- which will make things even worse -- instead of focusing on job creation? We do need to get the budget under control in the long-run, but deficit reduction can wait until the economy is on better footing. We need more help for job markets right now, not the creation of additional headwinds that work against the recovery.

When in doubt, follow...

...the money. From an article in today's Washington Post (my emphasis):

The six GOP presidential candidates who have announced results raised a combined $35 million through June 30, including about $18 million by presumed front-runner Mitt Romney. In 2007, Republican candidates had raised more than $118 million by the same stage of the race, according to a new analysis from the Center for Responsive Politics.

The sluggish pace poses a serious complication in Republican efforts to unseat Obama, and suggests GOP donors simply might be less enthusiastic than their Democratic rivals. The Obama campaign, which has not disclosed numbers yet, is expected to report raising at least $60 million — and perhaps as much as $80 million — in conjunction with the national party.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Today's Republican Party... beginning to remind me of the Communist Parties of Western Europe during the Cold War: rigidly ideological, nihilistic, and the product of economic hard times.

While the Communists achieved some modest electoral success in Italy, France, and Spain, they were ultimately doomed. Cooler heads prevailed. (And the economy recovered.)

Computer issues...

...are slowing down blogging this week. BOWG hopes to return to his usual annoying self shortly.

Remember "Repeal and Replace?"

According to a piece in Politico, House Republicans may be losing their taste for repealing the Affordable Care Act (my emphasis):

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), above, one of the House’s most ardent supporters of repealing or defunding the law at all costs, says it has become more difficult to get the attention of House leaders.

“I can’t get any traction,” he said of his effort to repeal or defund the law. “You can’t create something in this Congress unless leadership approves it.”

He questioned whether Republican leaders are willing to repeal the whole law if it means also repealing some of its popular provisions.

“There’s a little bit of an undercurrent that I pick up among well-positioned people in this Congress who think there could be some redeeming qualities of Obamacare,” pointing to statements Republican leadership have made in support of a handful of the law’s policies, such as banning insurers from denying patients because of preexisting conditions or allowing children to remain on their parents’ insurance through age 26.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Republican Party...

...may no longer be a normal party, according to David Brooks. He writes in the Times this morning (my emphasis):

Over the past few years, [the GOP] has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative. The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no.
The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it.

The members of this movement have no sense of moral decency. A nation makes a sacred pledge to pay the money back when it borrows money. But the members of this movement talk blandly of default and are willing to stain their nation’s honor.

The members of this movement have no economic theory worthy of the name. Economists have identified many factors that contribute to economic growth, ranging from the productivity of the work force to the share of private savings that is available for private investment. Tax levels matter, but they are far from the only or even the most important factor.
But to members of this movement, tax levels are everything. Members of this tendency have taken a small piece of economic policy and turned it into a sacred fixation. They are willing to cut education and research to preserve tax expenditures. Manufacturing employment is cratering even as output rises, but members of this movement somehow believe such problems can be addressed so long as they continue to worship their idol.

If the debt ceiling talks fail, independents voters will see that Democrats were willing to compromise but Republicans were not. If responsible Republicans don’t take control, independents will conclude that Republican fanaticism caused this default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern.

And they will be right.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Glenbrook North Spartans...

...have a running back named Grant Rushing.

Larry Summers was asked recently... describe President Obama's economic philosophy (my emphasis):

I think he's a deeply pragmatic economic thinker. He recognizes that the key to any society is the success of its middle class. He's focused on improving opportunities for the middle class. He wants to look at experience around the world and see what works best and pursue that. He's neither an ideologue who believes in untrammeled free markets nor an ideologue who believes that everything is best done by government. But I would describe his economic philosophy as supremely pragmatic. And I think it was a successful philosophy. There was a very real chance of depression in the winter of 2009. And that was avoided. It didn't have to be avoided, but much like the nuclear, the Cuban Missile Crisis where it's not that anything great happened in October of 1962, but disaster was avoided. In the same way the policy package that the president put forward was successful in preventing the Great Recession from becoming a second Great Depression.

Here's a nasty-looking graph...

...(especially on the Friday before a long weekend) from Ezra Klein's blog. I'll save you the trouble of inspecting it closely by going straight to the moral of the story:

The single most important fact about our projected deficits is that if Congress does nothing, they go away.