Archive

  • NM-1: DOWN TO THE WIRE.

    NM-1: DOWN TO THE WIRE. Democratic Attorney General Patricia Madrid is going into the last full week before elections in New Mexico's first district with a razor-thin lead over incumbent Republican Heather Wilson . Of course, the poll was run before the televised debate last week. Who won the debate largely depends on who you ask, though most observers found the incumbent to be more polished. Wilson, indeed, has jumped on a verbal stumble of Madrid's during the debate and turned it into an attack ad -- using a bit of creative editing to make it stick: The ad uses a portion of the debate where Wilson asks Madrid, "Can you cite something that would give the people of New Mexico some kind of reassurance that you will prevent a tax increase?" Madrid pauses before saying, "Your president and you have -- have voted for a tax relief." Here was Madrid's full answer from the debate: Madrid: "Your president and you have voted for tax relief for the top 1 percent of taxpayers in this country,...
  • THE MAJORITARIAN DIFFICULTY II.

    THE MAJORITARIAN DIFFICULTY II. Looks like it's Jonah Goldberg Monday here on Tapped . Kevin Drum finds him claiming that the last "100 years" of liberalism has been about "shoving things down people's throats." Drum identifies the most obvious problem: the core elements of the liberal accomplishments of the last century -- most importantly the New Deal/Great Society safety net and civil rights protections -- are very popular, which is why conservatives get power only when they don't oppose them. But what's particularly remarkable is Goldberg's list of examples: "bussing, racial quotas, gay marriage, Title IX." He can't even cherry pick four without destroying his underlying argument. Busing, I'll give him, was unpopular and in some cases ordered by courts (although I'd love to hear what he would have done as a federal judge facing school boards with long histories of transparent constitutional violations trying to nullify judicial opinions striking down school segregation). But the...
  • JONAH GOLDBERG, WHAT IS YOUR MAJOR MALFUNCTION?

    JONAH GOLDBERG, WHAT IS YOUR MAJOR MALFUNCTION? Brad's Battlestar Galactica article reminded me of this gem (discovered by Scott ) from Jonah Goldberg, written in response to episode 2-17: In a society scientifically so much more advanced, it seems to me that the issue would no longer be controversial one way or the other. Either contraceptive technology would have "solved" the problem. Or moral dogma about abortion's acceptable parameters would have been long established. I'm left to wonder exactly what Jonah is thinking about when he's imagining a technological fix for the abortion problem, but that's not really the funny part. Ron Moore has left us some subtle hints indicating that he's not optimistic about the ability of technology to solve basic societal problems. These hints include the low level of much Colonial technology, the vulnerability of high tech equipment to Cylon attack, the emphasis on religion as an enduring element of the human experience, and, last but not least,...
  • Combatting Global Warming: What's Wrong With Pay by the Mile Insurance?

    The NYT had a mostly good piece on efforts to deal with global warming today. The one big item missing is any discussion of pay-by-the-mile auto insurance. The logic on this one is simple. Currently auto insurance is pretty much a fixed price, drivers pay an average of close to $1,000 a year whether they drive 100 miles or 100,000 miles (low mileage discounts alter this slightly). Obviously the risk of accident for any given driver is roughly proportionate to the amount they drive. Pay by the mile policies would have drivers pay for their insurance based on the number of miles they drive. The numbers are dramatic. The average car is driven about 10,000 miles a year, which translates into 10 cents a mile for a $1,000 a year policy. For a car that gets 20 miles a gallon, this would provide the same disincentive to drive as a $2 per gallon gas tax. Unlike a gas tax, pay-by-the-mile insurance does not raise the average cost of insurance at all. For some reason, pay-by-the-mile insurance...
  • Can You Tell the Difference Between "Senior Democrats" and the Congressional Budget Office?

    Apparently NYT reporters can't. An article in Monday's NYT on a new Medicare guidebook that seems to promote private plans reports that "senior Democrats" complain that these plans raise the cost of the program. Well, senior Democrats might complain about the higher costs of the HMOs, PPOs and other private plans that have been incorporated into the Medicare program, but the evidence comes from independent assessments from the Congressional Budget Office and elsewhere. In other words, the allegation that private sector plans raise costs for Medicare is not a partisan charge, it is a well-established fact based on independent analyses. There may still be reasons to support these private plans, but the Times should inform readers that they do in fact raise the cost of the program. --Dean Baker
  • Another Uncompetitive Industry Seeks Government Protection

    We all know the story, an old-line U.S. industry, burdened by high wages and outmoded business practices, starts to lose out to foreign competition. Instead of bringing their pay more in line with world standards, they go running to the government for help. Yep, that's the best way to describe the financial industry's efforts to roll back Sarbanes-Oxley and change other rules of corporate governance. Rather than cutting back the multi-hundred million dollar compensation packages paid to people like current Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsen and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, they want to scale back the protections that make it more difficult for corporate management to rip off shareholders. Since management decides which capital markets to use, this is one way to gain a competitive edge. Given who holds the positions of power in the U.S. government, there is a good chance they will succeed. The conflicts of interest in this story are glaring and should be highlighted in the...
  • The Lights Are on, But There's Nobody Home

    No, I'm not talking about economics reporters or the brilliant economists who somehow failed to see the housing bubble (and the stock bubble), I'm talking about the Census Bureau's release of data on vacancy rate for thethird quarter. The data show that vacancy rates have climbed to yet another record high. The big story is on the side of vacant ownership units. The vacancy rate for rental units has hovered near its record high for the last three years. However, the vacancy rate for ownership units is up nearly 50 percent from its level as of two years ago. While the actual rate (2.5 percent) might still seem low, not many people can afford to pay the mortgage on a home that they are not using, nor are renting out. This suggests further downward pressure on prices in the months ahead. As best I can tell, this Census Bureau release was not mentioned in any of today's economic reporting. I agree that the weak 3rd quarter GDP growth was the big story, but if you want to know where the...
  • RISK ASSESSMENT: HACKER...

    RISK ASSESSMENT: HACKER RESPONDS. Don't miss Jacob Hacker 's response to Schmitt , Klein , and Yglesias . --The Editors
  • BUT WHAT KIND...

    BUT WHAT KIND OF POPULISM? My friend Cliff Schecter has a new article lauding the populist approach of Midwestern and border state Democrats. I'm always happy to see such pieces, mainly because it would be good if part of the post-election narrative for Democrats, assuming they win, is that a resurgent populist appeal pushed them over the finish line. I would, however, be grateful if writers began defining their terms a bit. The fact that these politicians are populist is simply asserted -- what the label means beyond thinking economic hardship is bad is never explained. There are many different types of populist appeals and many different ways to frame them. Among those which Democrats are assumedly not engaging in are tirades against the Jews and rants deriding intellectuals. Hopefully, they are recognizing the value of some healthy anticorporate sentiment. But it would be good to know who's doing what, and how it's working. Looking at poll numbers, overwhelming majorities of...
  • INCOHERENT LIKE A FOX.

    INCOHERENT LIKE A FOX. OK, do your best with what in the world this means. This is Bush during his roundtable with conservative columnists: This stuff about "stay the course" -- stay the course means, we're going to win. Stay the course does not mean that we're not going to constantly change. So he is staying the course now? An endlessly-mutable course? I give up. -- Spencer Ackerman

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