Archive

  • FRUSTRATING SUPPORT FOR MCCAIN UPDATE.

    FRUSTRATING SUPPORT FOR MCCAIN UPDATE. I'm afraid we may have to make �Liberals for McCain � a regular Tapped feature, a la Ezra 's Gorewatch. Jonathan Chait and Jacob Weisberg pioneered this trend, then Nicco Mele of EchoDitto joined the chorus, and today so did Richard Cohen in The Washington Post . Their rationales vary -- in fact, they conflict. Chait and Weisberg pursue the "he doesn't really mean all those rightwing votes he casts" argument, while Cohen uses a logic more like Mele's: He's a man of principle, and though I disagree with him and X on Y, he'd make a great president. Here's Cohen: [W]hile the Democrats are awash in potential presidential candidates, they have nobody who even remotely approaches McCain's stature. I say this not because I agree with McCain across the board -- not on abortion, for sure, and not on Iraq, and not with his bellicose statements regarding North Korea -- but because he embodies a quality for which the country yearns: integrity. He is a man of...
  • MEDICARE MEETS MEPHISTOPHELES....

    MEDICARE MEETS MEPHISTOPHELES. I spent last night at D.C.'s best bookstore/coffee shop, Politics and Prose, reading through David Hyman 's new book Medicare Meets Mephistopheles . Hyman is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and his book, as you may have guessed from the title, takes as its conceit that Medicare is a demonic program sent to encourage all manner of deadly sins and, eventually, bring down the American republic. Spending so much time in the blogosphere, where libertarians are over-represented, I occasionally forget that libertarianism is a distinctly fringe ideology. Seeing them (jokingly) suggest that the massively popular and successful (if deeply in need of reform) system of health insurance for the elderly has Satanic origins helpfully reminds me of that fact. That said, the book is actually quite good. I'd happily recommend it to anyone with a basic grasp on health care and a desire to learn a bit more about Medicare. Hyman is a felicitous and fun writer, and...
  • CHECKING IN ON WILLARD-MITT.

    CHECKING IN ON WILLARD-MITT. Hey, it's Primary Day here in the Commonwealth (God save it!). Three decent Democratic candidates have been vigorously belaboring each other for the right to face Republican Lieutenant Governor Kerry Murphy O'Faolain O'Flaherty Maud Gonne Healey in the general election. (There is also an Independent candidate named Christy Mihos , and he's probably the happiest candidate since Hubert Humphrey bubbled off this mortal coil, but he has less chance of being governor than he does of swimming to Greenland.) Now seem like a good time to check in on the only governor we actually have, Willard Mitt Romney . What's he up to? Well, he's out there being an idiot. As you know, Willard Mitt wants to be president, but one of his biggest problems is that he's a high-rent Mormon, and an awful lot of the folks around the country were raised to believe Mormons had two heads and both of them pagan. Willard Mitt needed an issue to reach these folks and, since all the...
  • IRAQ FOR SALE.

    IRAQ FOR SALE. Last night, I attended the Washington premier of Robert Greenwald �s latest documentary, Iraq for Sale , about the abusive, sinister and wasteful state of private contracting in Iraq. As with Greenwald�s previous docs, especially his Wal-Mart expos�, I found myself so mind-numbingly angry and frustrated by the end that I wasn�t sure whether to punch a hole in the wall or crawl into one. Greenwald tracked down procurement officials in the Defense Department, retired Brig. General Janis Karpinski , truck drivers who worked for Halliburton/KBR, and a variety of experts, many of whom attended the screening at the new Woolly Mammoth Theatre. (Woolly�s digs are quite nice.) He works through the refusal to hold accountable any of the private contractors who supervised the torture and humiliation of detainees at Abu Ghraib. (Karpinski and a bunch of her reservist underlings took the fall, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon brass quickly shifted blame.) He...
  • Old Europe Goes to Work

    Remember the days when the European welfare state led to economic stagnation and high unemployment? Well, like hula hoops and bobby socks, this story may be a relic of the past. The latest data from the OECD show that employment to population (EPOP) ratios for prime age workers (ages 25-54) are almost identical in the EU-15 countries and the United States. The EPOPs for young workers and older workers are still substantially lower in the EU than in the United States, but this is largely the deliberate outcome of policy decisions. In the case of young people, European countries have very low college tuition and often give students stipends. As a result, most European college students do not work. In the case of older workers, European countries generally have lower retirement ages, so that workers can often begin to receive benefits in their mid or late fifties. Whether or not these are good policies, Europeans recognize that student stipends and early retirement benefits are lowering...
  • WARNER'S ANTI-POPULISM. ...

    WARNER'S ANTI-POPULISM. If you want to know why I think the hype about Mark Warner is oddly misguided, look no further than his recent comments lambasting the Kerry campaign for attacking Bush 's top-bracket tax cuts. He takes up that favorite of chin-stroking op-ed columnists everywhere, arguing that "Even though the Bush tax cuts only applied to the top 2 percent of Americans, what I think the Kerry campaign missed was that the other 98 percent of Americans still aspired to get to the point in their life." Color me unconvinced. Not only is Warner philosophically wrong here -- I don't know what sort of Democrat believes it's supportable public policy to raid the federal treasury to enrich the wealthy -- he's not even backed up by the polling data. Support for Bush's tax cuts is, and always has been, low. They've never been as popular as one might expect. Moreover, they've become less popular as time passed. In 2000, exit polls shows that voters naming "taxes" as their top issue went...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: THE FORTUNE COOKIE GAME.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: THE FORTUNE COOKIE GAME. Matt intervenes in the ongoing democracy debate . To Matt, democracy, human rights, liberal reforms -- they're all great. The real issue isn't the policy objective, but the method of achieving it: There's a game that kids (and, OK, me too) like to play with the fortune cookies you get at Chinese restaurants. Read the fortune, but append the phrase "in bed" to whatever it says. Hilarity ensues. The game illustrates that in fortune-telling, as in everything else, context matters. A couple of additional context-setting words transform platitudes into dirty jokes. Much the same could be said of the ongoing debate about the role of democracy promotion in American foreign policy... The way I see it, there's less to this dispute than meets the eye. The real problem is what's missing -- those crucial additional words that determine context. And context makes all the difference. From my perspective, you can take any of these proposals -- "let...
  • THE CURSE OF...

    THE CURSE OF BUSH. The topic du jour over at The Corner is an exploration of what a mean guy and poor candidate George Allen is. K-Lo thinks he often comes off "as a disturbingly nasty guy," Jonah notes that when he's backed into a corner "he becomes decidedly unReaganesque both in his sometimes gormless retorts and his slightly nasty and/or defensive streak," and J-Pod describes Allen's response to a question about his grandfather's religion as "just...weird." Allen's got to be right up there with Bill Frist for the most stunning falls of the 2008 cycle. Folks will remember that Frist was, at one point, Rove 's golden boy, a perfectly serious contender for the presidency who was supposed to use his medical background, telegenic nature, and irrepressible charm to be the second coming of the compassionate conservative. His ascension to majority leader was merely part of that path. His implosion once there was astonishing. Allen, actually, was then the guy who took up the mantle. This...
  • FUNNY BUSINESS.

    FUNNY BUSINESS. Mark Schmitt 's column in our September print issue is a rumination on businesses' efforts at mass voter registration, and the challenge that presents to progressives. Mark mainly focuses on the manufacturing sector, which is sufficiently beleaguered for job loyalty to often trump class loyalty -- as workers "see their economic interest as bound up in their employers� interests." That precise dynamic wouldn't presumably be at work in Wal-Mart, but The Hill reports today that the company "is planning to launch a voter registration and education campaign this fall targeted at its 1.3 million employees in an effort to combat growing criticism from Democrats and labor unions." Details are very skimpy at the moment, but this will certainly be something to watch this season. --Sam Rosenfeld
  • Holiday Retail Sales, Adjust for Inflation

    The Times reported today that the National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts a 5 percent increase in holiday sales for 2006. It notes that this is a lower pace than the 6 percent increases seen the prior two years. It would have been helpful to adjust this prediction for inflation. The CPI for commodities, excluding food, energy, and new and used trucks, which most closely corresponds to the items sold in retail stores, is running about 0.7 percent above its year ago level. It was essentially flat on a year over year basis the prior two years. This means that the NRF federation prediction implies a drop of about 1.7 percentage points in real terms from year over year growth in the prior two years. --Dean Baker

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