KNOCK IT OFF, FELLAS. Senator Barack Obama had better do a little more reading and a little less presidential-positioning before going on Meet the Press again. It's understandably tempting to make a name for oneself by mocking Democrats. It's also a surefire way to gain plaudits from everyone from Tim Russert to Sean Hannity. But yesterday, when Russert read a passage from Obama's new book in which the senator says he's a big believer in free-market capitalism who also worries about the efficiency of government programs, Russert asked him a very specific question Obama couldn't platitude-pander his way out of: So, which programs, Senator?
The Financial Times reports that the Financial Accounting Standards Board is about to recommend that the federal government adopt "accrual" accoounting to more accurately affect its budget situation. This would mean, for example, that the projected cost of Medicare benefits for a worker who is 25 today should be listed as a government obligation.
Last week it was David Broder, this time it is Sebastian Mallaby telling us that "every honest politician" knows that we have to cut Social Security. Actually, honest politicians who know arithmetic and can read, know that Social Security is projected to be able to pay all scheduled benefits fro the next 40 years, with no changes whatsover. Why do Washington Post columnists so frequently say things about Social Security that are not true?
In a piece on the importance of the Portuguese language, the Times explains that one reason for increased interest is Brazil's "dynamic economy." Brazil's per capita GDP growth has averaged less than 1.0 percent annually over the last decade. Add this one to the "huh" department.
Steve Pearlstein often wrote thoughtful pieces when he was a reporter, and this has been the case in more recent years with his columns. For this reason, I was overcome by shock and awe (hence the 2 day delay in writing) when I read what could only be described as sycophantic praise in a column marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Institute for International Economics (IIE). Pearlstein devoted his whole column to explaining how IIE is simply the best, and how he often got grief from his editors for being too dependent on IIE sources (this is what is known as �good grief�).
KIM JONG IL AND DAVID KUO. Unable to match Brother Ezra's heartfelt post about David Kuo and the compassion agenda, I offer readers a rueful laugh in the form of the title of a piece by Jason T. Christy of The Church Report, a right-wing political publication dressed in a cassock: "David Kuo: An Addition to the Axis of Evil."
A BITE SIZED SOLUTION. I'm not sure how to feel about economist Martin B. Schmidt's New York Timesop-ed from yesterday. In it he argues for a 10% tax on food ordered from drive-throughs on the grounds that it will encourage people to get out of their cars, and raise money to off-set the social cost of obesity. In principle I think these are both laudable goals, but in practice this idea is deeply flawed. As long as there are drive-throughs, taxing the people who use them and not people who order the same food at the walk-in counter could reasonably be construed as discriminatory against people with disabilties.
FAITH-BASED COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATIVES. As Michael Crowley points out, David Kuo's anecdotes about the Bush administration's total abandonment of the "compassion" agenda are rather remarkable:
A West Wing friend called to say the president heard about the article as he walked from the Oval office of the OEOB. He was angry. "Well," he yelled through the stairwell, "is he right or isn't he? Have we done compassion or haven't we? I wanna know."
THE TILLMAN FAMILY IS NOT GOING AWAY. If there's an iconic tale of the betrayal of the national unity and resolve in the wake of the 9/11 atrocities, it's what happened to Pat Tillman when he left the Arizona Cardinals and went off to war. His death occasioned one of the very first grotesque and demonstrable public lies in what has become an almost endless parade of them. Since then, it has been revealed that the original story of hs death was concocted by a military in thrall to a truthless and cowardly civilian political establishment, and it also been revealed that Tillman himself was possessed of a shrewd and interesting mind, with a good eye for how sacrifice gets coined into someone else's gold.