Ezra Klein

Knowledge Will Set You Free

From the WaPo's recent poll : We've done an excellent job explaining that private accounts aren't a solution to Social Security's economic problems, now we need to broadcast how they'd worsen them. But while we have a task, Bush has a dilemma. His whole spiel on private accounts rests on convincing Americans of a crisis. But Americans don't believe private accounts will solve the crisis, so his argument is disconnected from his solution. Sucks for him.

Bush Gets it Right

I know this question is becoming trite, but what the hell is Friedman talking about? There will be a lot of trial and error in the months ahead. But this is a hugely important horizontal dialogue because if Iraqis can't forge a social contract, it would suggest that no other Arab country can - since virtually all of them are similar mixtures of tribes, ethnicities and religions. That would mean that they can be ruled only by iron-fisted kings or dictators, with all the negatives that flow from that. Excuse me? First of all, George W. Bush has repeatedly stated that he disagrees with folks who think the brown people can't have democracies, and you are not going to question the single thing that unites us. But more to the point, if the Iraqi attempt at reform falls through, that'll mean nothing more than that they didn't succeed. Maybe the killing factor wasn't color, but American occupation and the divisions we caused. Maybe it was Saddam's legacy. Maybe it was corruption in Kurdistan...

Dem-On-Dem Violence, and Why I Love It

Well this is nice to hear: Rep. Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.) was asked at a CATO conference in Washington yesterday whether he had persuaded any Democrats to back his plan to rescue Social Security from its financial troubles...A questioner from the audience, stressing his own Democratic credentials, said he believed Ryan's plan should attract members of his own party and wondered whether the Wisconsin lawmaker had secured any Democratic sponsors. Ryan said he had been working with friends on the "other side of the aisle" who were favorable toward his solution, but he faced an enormous problem: intense pressure on his colleagues from the minority leadership. "We were in planning stages [with friendly Democrats]," said Ryan. But each essentially told him: "I like what you're doing. I like this bill. I think it's the right way to go. But my party leadership will break my back. The retribution that they are promising us is as great as I have ever seen. We can't do it." And any wingers who judge...

Laws and the Liars Who Write Them

It got basically no coverage yesterday (North Korea has nukes! Charles marrying Camilla! Not necessarily in that order!), but the Senate passed a significant class-action lawsuit bill. The legislation forces many class-action suits out of states and into federal courts, where judges (many, many, many of them appointed by Republicans, simply because they've held the White House for the majority of the last 30 years) are less sympathetic, and less moved by local concerns. In addition, the bill has an odd flaw in it: A Supreme Court ruling from the 80's barred federal courts from considering cases where the affected states have materially different laws, which means many of these lawsuits will be thrown out as neither state nor federal courts are allowed to deal with them. It's not so much that the bill's bad in concept as that it's poorly designed. Legislation shouldn't have gaping flaws like that, at least not unless it's being passed more to satisfy an interest group and less to...

Finish Him!

I am all about Kriston's proposal for Pundit Kombat . Suggest appropriate match-ups in the comments.

To Fight or Not to Fight?

I've not been particularly interested in the Cole/Goldberg slapfest (the only surprising thing was Cole wasting time on him, which seemed to me a defeat at the outset), but the argument over advocating war without fighting it is certainly worth engaging. Unfogged started it (read the comments too) and Yglesias picked it up, and now I'll throw my pennies into the fray. The central point is whether young, healthy guys who advocate war are morally compelled to fight in it. The consensus is so long as we have a capable, volunteer army, no. I agree with that. If you argue for war then dodge conscription (like Rove, DeLay, Limbaugh, Bush, et al), you're fit for Republican leadership a bad person. I agree with that, too. The point Matt brings up, however, is thornier, which should be expected from a philosophy major. Assume you advocated for war when it looked like the volunteer army could take care of it, but their numbers proved inadequate. What then? Seems a couple considerations become...

Eat The Old

As Brad notes , moving from wage-indexing to price-indexing would result in a huge benefits cut. Had someone retiring in 2005 chosen a price-indexing system, his benefits would be 60% less than his fellow retirees, and his gas bill would go unpaid. So we should certainly oppose it on those grounds. But one thing that I haven't seen discussed (though I'm certain it has been) is the philosophical implications of the shift. Wage-growth is a very peculiar indicator to peg payments to, and it's one that comes with a very specific message. The elderly are not a segment of society that needs the equivalent of welfare, they're not a group that we feel obligated to prop up. Instead, they were the ones whose work brought America to this point, and they deserve to share in whatever future prosperity America enjoys. It's the difference between isolating them from society as a "needy" group and rewarding them for decades of contributions. When you tack their payments to prices, Social Security...

Your Political News for the Day

• Al Franken is running in Minnesota. • In a presidential head-to-head, Hillary Clinton beats John Kerry 51-34%. In Massachusetts. That's gotta hurt.

Sign Me Up

The Training Wheel strategy makes a lot of sense to me. Maybe somebody should appoint Justin Logan to something and let him try and implement it. I should clarify this though and say it only makes sense in context of the constraints Bush has already placed on himself. It's self-evident that we need to set conditions of, and an expected date for, withdrawal. If the insurgent's attacks appear to be keeping us in the country, it'll sap their support among Iraqis so quick their skullcaps will spin. Thanks much to Bush, then, who has ruled this out. Let's hope he voted against it before he votes for it.

Get Any Sleep?

Not only is Bush a cold-hearted, callous dolt whose idealistic fog can't even be penetrated by a woman working three jobs , he's also wrong. He calls that uniquely American? Bullshit. I live in California and can assure you it's at least partially Mexican. By the way, I like Greg's game : choose your own answer to Bush's snappy parting remark, "get any sleep?" "Not really. Do you also find it weird that you run the entire country yet have time to read in the evenings and exercise in the mornings, while I work three jobs and can't even see my kids? Put yours in comments.

Being The Great Satan

Early in Bush's first term, a friend of a friend had, through family connections, gotten a few minutes in the Oval Office with the guy. Bush, he said, was exactly as you'd expect. When he found that his guest was Californian, he leaned back in his chair and sighed, "You know, i just don't get that state. Everything I touch there turns to shit." True enough. But Bush's observation is more relevant to Iran than to the Golden State. Which is why the attention he's paying the country should strike fear into the heart of any dissident. Iranians don't much like their government, but they have a habit of rallying round it when foreigners judge it time to get involved. The government realizes both these things and so has made it common practice to redirect anger at Iran's high unemployment, poor economy, and choked-off cultural life towards the Great Satan and Evil Zionists who anchor them with sanctions and isolate them internationally. Publicly promising support for their dissidents simply...

Hillary And Deeaan, Sitting in a Tree...

Via Steve Clemons , Marty Sieff's analysis of what Dean means for Hillary Clinton is quite good. His basic point is that Hillary will stroll to reelection in 2006 (adding evidence to the theory is her tremendous approval numbers and her easy lead in head-to-head match-ups with Giuliani) while Dems across the country fight it out. Dean, for his part, will run a hard-edged national strategy with more than a few pages coming from the Gingrich playbook. If his progressive bomb-throwing works, Hillary can easily adopt it. If Dean fails (and considering how tough the '06 map is [see Dayton's retirement below], he might be assuming an impossible task), Hillary can run as the heir of Third-Way liberalism. Good, even counterintuitive, stuff. But what surprises me if how little I've seen on the most obvious benefit Dean's DNC ascension confers on Hillary -- no Dean. Barring a Democratic revolution that reshapes the nation and wins both houses of Congress, he can't run in 2008. The absence of a...

One More For Privatization

Dude, seeing surveillance photos of your kids at school is a pretty convincing rationale , if you ask me.

Draft David! And Garrison!

In Minnesota, Mark Dayton has decided not to run for another seat, making the 2006 map considerably harder than it was yesterday. On the other hand, I've long heard rumors that Paul Wellstone's son David wants to run for the Senate. The word on him is good and his father's legacy would make him a formidable challenger. Maybe it's time to dust off the green bus? Or register http://www.draftdavid.com ? In addition, Garrison Keiller rumblings have begun, and anybody who's read his excellent book, Homegrown Democrat , knows he's a genius with framing and more than able to offhandedly ridicule and marginalize his hapless opponents. For instance, have any of your non-Obama candidates sounded this good lately? Medicare says that even though you're not working and may need special help with the ordinary business of life, you have value in this society. This is a Democratic idea. Be a howling right-winger if it gives you pleasure, but nonetheless milk comes from cows and Medicare comes from...

Kiss My Ass -- No New Taxes

Brad Plumer's noticed a problem : I'm a bit confused as to what Congressional Republicans think would make for a better budget. It seems that the two primary objections from President Bush's own party are: cuts to particular programs, and the yawning federal budget deficit, which the budget doesn't really cure. Okay. But then a sizeable majority of Congressional Republicans have also signed a pledge not to increase taxes. So that solution's out. Meanwhile, cutting discretionary spending even further will only yield very tiny reductions in the deficit. And Bush's two big entitlement "reforms"—including last year's Medicare bill, which will cost $400 billion over the next five years alone, and his vague hints at a proposed Social Security plan, which will cost $4.5 trillion over the next 25 years—will only expand the deficit by huge amounts. So where is fiscal sanity supposed to fit come from? Fairy-land? There was a time when that question had an answer. Republicans who'd been cornered...

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