KEEPING THE BOOT ON THE NECK. This Hillpiece about the heat Democrats are bringing down on vulnerable House GOP incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick on the subject of Social Security privatization makes for highly encouraging reading. For a while there has been a real worry that Democrats' fierce and devastating victory in the Social Security fight last year was turning out to have been a catastrophic success -- too much of a victory, too soon, for it to be a live issue to campaign on in the fall of 2006. Democrats seemed to have been satisfied with their substantive defeat of actual legislation and weirdly inclined to move on to other issues once that fight had been won.
BOOK CLUBS.This is rather funny. Excited that the Chamber of Commerce's educational wing has selected Cato scholar Arnold Kling's healthcare treatise for their "Top 10 Reading Selections," Michael Cannon enthuses that "The foundation�s board is a bipartisan group of influential figures from the business, political, and policy spheres...[which] evidently agreed with Marginal Revolution publisher Tyler Cowen that Crisis of Abundance 'is one of the most important books written on health care.'�
WAIT A SEC. All due respect to Charlie Pierce, but I've never mentioned Jerome's astrology stuff, have no idea what this is about, and would appreciate it if someone could link me to a synopsis. I think he means Garance and Matt.
By the way, TAPPED astrology fun fact: Did you know that Sam Rosenfeld, Matt Yglesias, and I are all Tauruses?
ASTROLOGY, A POLITICAL LIABILITY? All due respect to Garance and Ezra, but the proof that this whole Kos-TNR rockfight has been conducted exclusively with the moon in the House Of Groucho is probably the latest iteration in which poor Jerome Armstrong, who should just go to the track the next time he wants to make easy money, is belabored with the fact that he has an interest in astrology. I disagree with the notion that this necessarily is a political problem, and anyone who asserts that it is must somehow answer the argument that a similar interest didn't seem to derail the political careers of these fine folks.
DAVID BROOKS: MAKING THINGS UP.David Brooks, joining the "kosola" fake scandal brigade over the weekend wrote:
When Sherrod Brown, the Democratic Senate candidate in Ohio, hired Armstrong last year to help with his campaign, this was also a sign of respect. The Kingpin [i.e., Kos] had instructed his Kossack cultists to support Brown's Democratic primary rival, Paul Hackett. But the Kingpin switched sides and backed Brown over his former anointee.
SUBURBIA DEFENDED. Yesterday, TAPPED contributor Ben Adler ended a post on the minutemen with a bizarrely digressive shot at suburbanites. "That kind of selfish mentality -- our public schools are only for rich, healthy students -- is lamentably common in suburbia." Is it truly? Ben has not, to my knowledge, ever lived in a suburban community, so his anecdotal evidence cannot claim a wide sample. More to the point, Ben is a close friend of mine, and I well know the raging contempt the proud Brooklynite holds for the landscaped tracts that I grew up in. We've all got our quirks, I guess.
NONE DARE CALL IT BULLSHIT. I never, ever, ever watch prime time cable news because it makes me want to kill extremely large numbers of people. Tragically, I walked through the door yesterday and my roommate already had Hardball on. There were two people debating the issue of . . . whether or not The New York Times should be brought up on charges of treason. Seriously. Treason. For publishing an article in a newspaper. Treason. And there was Chris Matthews happily presiding over the whole thing as if this was a serious conversation that people should be having. This all taking place on a network that, allegedly, does journalism.
THE LIMITS OF CHARITY.Warren Buffett's plan to give most of his money to the already giant foundation Bill Gates started is, of course, going to make the foundation super-large. Word on the street is that it will allow the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to approximately double its current $1.4 billion in annual grant-making, which is mostly focused on the important and under-served cause of fighting third world disease.
I have complained in the past about reporters' willingness to accept corporate numbers uncritically. My favorite example is the widely reported claim that the compensation of Delphi's unionized workers averaged $65 an hour. This implied a benefits package worth more than $70,000 a year. Anyone believe that?
We have another example from the Times today. Its article on GM's buyout offer to workers reports that getting rid of 35,000 workers will save GM $8 billion a year. Hmmmm, my calculator puts that at a savings of just under $230,000 per worker.
The May data for new home sales came in somewhat higher than expected. It is important to keep in mind that the home sales data record contracts, not completed sales. In the boom period a year ago, broken contracts were rare. Now that prices are weakening in many of the formerly hot markets, broken contracts are becoming common.
To my knowledge, no one keeps data on the percentage of contracts that are broken, but there have been reports from some builders in California and Florida of cancellation rates in the range of 20-30 percent. If the nationwide rate of cancellation is even 5 percentage points higher than last year, it would conceal a sharp falloff in actual sales.