Archive

  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: SICK TRANSIT.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: SICK TRANSIT. Ben "Badler" Adler discusses the substantive importance and difficult politics of mass transit. --The Editors
  • LOOK PAST THE...

    LOOK PAST THE FACIAL HAIR. Greg Anrig has quite a crummy valentine for Robert Samuelson : Samuelson compares the size of the "welfare state" in 1956 to 2006, counting Social Security and Medicare, and seethingly highlights its growth from 21 percent of the federal budget to 59 percent. He doesn�t mention that in 1956, the poverty rate among the elderly was over 35 percent compared to about 10 percent today. The two countervailing trends are intimately related. Say what you want about welfare, but social insurance works. Samuelson is one of America's finest chin-strokers, forever sniffing over the irresponsibility of the federal budget and the growth of entitlement programs (which he wants to rename "welfare" programs) and the generosity of the state. He's particularly effective because his comments are always framed as Big Questions about Economics that only Robert Samuelson, speaking as a highly-paid and economically secure member of the intellectual elite, is courageous enough to...
  • More Attacks on Social Security from the Coward's Corner

    Robert Samuelson uses his secure position within the Coward's Corner (a.k.a. the Washington Post opinion pages, dubbed the "coward's corner" for the Post's refusal to print dissenting opinions on this issue) to take a sideways swipe at Social Security. Samuelson makes the valid point that transfer payments have grown rapidly as a share of the federal government budget over the last four decades. The dishonest part of the story is in the graph accompanying the article. The graph shows that "Social Security and other payments to individuals" rose from 21 percent of the budget in 1956 to 59 percent of the budget in 2006. The deceptive part of the story is that the "other payments" accounted for the vast majority of this increase. While Social Security went from 7.8 percent of spending in 1956 to 20.6 percent in 2006, "other payments" went from 12.8 percent of spending to 38.4 percent of spending over the same period. The bulk of these other payments are the main government health care...
  • THE IDIOTIC SEASON.

    THE IDIOTIC SEASON. Eric Boehlert has an excellent (if depressing) rundown of the thoroughly phony Pelosi plane non-scandal . As recently as Sunday -- although the House Speaker-At-Arms had released a statement saying she didn't request the plane on Thursday, and even the White House had dismissed it as a "silly" non-story -- Glenn Reynolds appeared on CNN's Reliable Sources and not only falsely claimed that Pelosi had "requested" a larger plane but added the made-up-from-whole-cloth embellishment that "her staff said she wanted to have room for an 'entourage,' which was perhaps an unfortunate choice of word." (Were it not for the unfortunate death of Anna Nicole Smith , it's frightening to think of the traction this smear job would have received.) What's particularly useful about the Boehlert piece is that he notes carefully how this fake scandal fits into pre-existing Republican smear narratives: "Journalists adore the Democrats-are-hypocrites narrative so much that they often...
  • POLITICIZING VALENTINE'S DAY....

    POLITICIZING VALENTINE'S DAY. This being an unabashedly progressive magazine that often argues for more state involvement and derides the Bush administration's small bore, overly individualistic solutions to (domestic) problems, I've been trying to figure out how to really paste them on Valentine's Day. Thankfully, a six-year-old article on the attempts of Singapore's government to increase their country's quotient of mojo gives me the hook I need: The country's birth rate had dropped from an average of 1.96 children per woman in 1988 to below 1.5 in 1999. The phenomenon seemed to have causes beyond the use of contraception: according to the local press, many couples were finding themselves too tired after the long Singaporean workday to have sex. Alarmed by the statistic, Singapore's government decided to act. On August 20 Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong took up the matter in a speech broadcast on radio and TV in honor of National Day, commemorating Singapore's emergence as an...
  • WHY JUDITH MILLER?...

    WHY JUDITH MILLER? Byron York at NRO yesterday observed that the testimony, on Monday, of a number of journalists that they did not receive a leak from Scooter Libby about Valerie Plame raised questions about one of the fundamental theories underlying the CIA-leak case. If Libby's disclosure of Mrs. Wilson's identity to Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper was part of a White House conspiracy to out Joseph Wilson's wife, why didn't Libby take the opportunities he had to out her to Woodward, Novak, Pincus, et al? Did Cheney, who is portrayed in some scenarios as the mastermind of the leak, tell Libby to disclose Mrs. Wilson's identity to Matt Cooper and not to Bob Woodward? To Judith Miller and not to Robert Novak? There are very simple answers to these questions that go to the heart of Fitzgerald 's theory of the case; one of the things evidently keeping York and others from seeing those answers is the assumption that any conspiracy or coordinated effort must be vast or great. Instead, on...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: THIS DOG WON'T WAG.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: THIS DOG WON'T WAG. In his column this week, Mike discusses the administration's campaign to boost public support for a military confrontation with Iran. He has confidence that the American public will hold firm in opposing one, but he's not so sure about the talking heads and pundits. --The Editors
  • RICHARD COHEN COMES...

    RICHARD COHEN COMES CLEAN. And does so with self-deprecating grace : how come [Clinton] now says she did not think Bush, armed with a congressional resolution, would hurry to war? I certainly did. It was about the only thing I got right about the war, which, the record will show, I supported. If I were running for the presidency, I might call my position "a mistake" and bray about being misled. But it was really a lapse in judgment. For reasons extraneous to this particular column, I thought the war would do wonders for the Middle East and that it would last, at the most, a week or two. In this I was assured by the usual experts in and out of government. My head nodded like one of those little toy dogs in the window of the car ahead of you. Richard Cohen (as well as The Prospect 's own Harold Meyerson ) are quite right that Clinton is in a real bind. This is far worse than John Edwards 's blogger bind, which his controversial hires solved for him, as predicted , by resigning. The...
  • TWO ANTI-CATHOLIC VULGAR TRASH-TALKING BIGOTS.

    TWO ANTI-CATHOLIC VULGAR TRASH-TALKING BIGOTS. That is how William Donohue of the Catholic League described Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan , two bloggers who were hired by the John Edwards campaign. Donohue then demanded that they be fired . This did not happen, though both bloggers have recently resigned from the campaign. That the New York Times found Donohue worth quoting on this topic made me interested in learning more about what Mr. Donohue regards as anti-Catholic. What might he find so shocking that he would demand people to be fired? What is "anti-Catholic" in Mr. Donohue's faith-based reality? What is bigoted? And why is Mr. Donohue such a welcome guest in many political talk shows? Come and meet the anti-Catholics Mr. Donohue has accused by name. Some of them he has also called bigots:
  • JUST SAY NO....

    JUST SAY NO. Garance 's post below is exactly right. Elsewhere , I've been musing over the possible substantive benefits of simply swearing off an attack on Iran (at least as a consequence of weaponizing), but laying out, in advance, a 10-year set of sanctions -- end the internal conversation in Iran over the threat we pose, and force it onto grounds of economic development. However you do it, it would seem that whichever candidate actually wants the anti-war vote could nail the rest of the field from the left on exactly the grounds Garance is suggesting. My impression is that very few of the candidates actually think attacking Iran is a good idea, but they're rhetorically enabling the concept because they don't want to look soft or, uh, lose the backing of certain unnameable funding sources . Nevertheless, this unwillingness to call a spade a spade ("can't take options off the table," "need to be united before the UN") is very much the sort of thing that accelerated the last rush to...

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