• A Bit More on Taxes

    Kevin and Duncan * both point out that the VAT (see post below) is somewhat regressive. True 'nuff. So why do it? Mostly because it's safer than the alternatives. Reasoning below the fold.
  • Bartlett Speaks, or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the VAT

    Movement conservative Bruce Bartlett has penned one of those responsible Republican op-eds Democrats are coming to know and love; and he's written a real one, not a Brooksian poison pill. He argues that Republicans have neither the will nor the desire to seriously shrink government spending, in fact, they've proved themselves as bad as Democrats. With that known, he says, the idea of starving the beast is dead, the gig up, the game over; now we need to figure out how to deal with the coming health care crunch, mindful that politicians haven't the courage to slash health care. To that end, he recommends the Value Added Tax. A bit of background: The VAT is used by every industrialized nation save America. It's essentially a sales tax levied on manufacturers during each step of the production process. As an example (stolen from Taxing Ourselves ), assume this simplified life cycle of bread: A farmer grows and grinds wheat, then sells the resulting flour to a baker for $1. The baker makes...
  • Is Arnold In Trouble?

    Judging by the size and ferocity of these protests , it looks like he just might be. Via Singer .
  • Is This Thing On?

    Is there a reason comments have been so dead the last two days? I mean, the hits are doing just fine, but you're all keeping silent. You guys take a vow or you just feeling quiet?
  • Sez Sage Brooks

    Unlike some others , I don't see much to laud in Brooks's column this morning. From my vantage point, it's just another trite outing in which Sensible David explains that it's not lockstep ideological rigidity combined with top-flight institutions that has made conservatism the handsome superforce it is today, but a long process of healthy intramovement argument and deep study of their philosophical forebears. In other words, more on how wonderful Republicans are and why Democrats should take off their horns and copy their opponents. The column ends with one of those now overused conclusions that most liberals, sad to say, probably couldn't tell you their favorite philosopher if you asked them to. That, of course, is what's wrong with the Democratic party. Bush can name Christ, Brooks can name Burke, but leftists don't think quick enough to say Rawls. But which Democratic party has Brooks been watching? Because I've certainly missed the incarnation he noticed, with its painless...
  • One More Time, With Feeling

    Matt's response to me in his latest Prospect column bears a read, and a reply. He's right that we should be lauding the congressional leadership for their recent triumphs and successes. And indeed, this whiny liberal has done so, making more than a few jokes about my personal altar to Harry Reid. But he's wrong to offer a broadside against criticism and shaky in his read of the Pew Poll . His central argument is that Democrats are doing only marginally worse among the general public than Republicans and a lot worse among their own partisans. This leaves room for growth and optimism because it should be easy to convert Democrats to our side. That's correct, so far as it goes. Any time your public opinion polls are at 37%, there's room for growth. But the important thing, as any good pollster will tell you, are trend lines. In the last year, the Democratic leadership has dropped 7% among Democrats, while the Republican leadership has dropped 2% among Republicans. The general public...
  • Links

    • This is the best argument in favor of a housing bubble I've read. You should read it too. • Why you shouldn't trust someone named curveball . • DeLay: We gave you life, and we can take it away .
  • Counter Letter

    60 current and former diplomats signed a letter opposing the Bolton nomination. That made sense, what with diplomats weighing in on the appointment of a top diplomat -- their occupational experience gives them a unique perspective on the position. In response, Frank Gaffney got 65 -- count 'em, five more! -- non-diplomats to sign a counter-letter supporting the nomination. The signatories include such foreign policy heavyweights as Alan Keyes, Bill Bennett, Bush speechwriter Clark Judge and even former congresscritter James Longley, who likes Bolton so much he signed the letter twice. Since the game is now numbers rather than exxpertise, a response is called for. I need 66 names for my own anti-Bolton letter. You don't need to know anything, don't need to work in government, don't need to be important -- hell, you don't even need your real name. But I need 66 of you to add your digital hancock in the comments because, if we don't, Gaffney's letter will surely bring Lugar over to the...
  • Good Job, Now Get Out

    The general quality of Bush's second-term, non-Bolton/Wolfowitz appointments , is really a surprising development. Unlike Reagan , Bush hasn't been fighting a lonely intra-administration battle for a more conciliatory, peaceable approach to foreign policy. By all accounts, the neocons believed what Bush believes -- democracy promotion, sweeping vision, bellicosity, etc. And, in the eyes of Bush, conservatives, Marty Peretz*, and some Democrats, his approach has indeed been vindicated. Democratic reform is sweeping across continents. Iraq and Afghanistan have held elections. Ukraine, Georgia, Kyrzyrgstan, and, to some degree, Lebanon, have thrown their bastards out. Mubarak is letting other parties compete. Saudi Arabia is taking tentative steps towards electoral democracy. Israel and Palestine are doing better than any time in recent memory. What's not to like? We can argue the degree to which those occurrences are, in fact, significant, for days. And the jury's certainly divided on...
  • Demagogues

    About an hour ago, Sen. John Cornyn gave a speech that said: "I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. Certainly nothing new, but we seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently that's been on the news and I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in - engage in violence." [Senate Floor, 4/4/05] Considering the circumstances of the shootings, no, probably not. But if the situation were different, we know who to blame for it, right? I'll give you a hint: It's not the judges, who do their jobs as arbiters unaccountable to the voters and beholden solely to the constitution. It's the politicians, who have forgotten their roles as deliberators and assumed...