Ezra Klein

Hold It

WaPo calls bullshit on the President's budget: The spending plan does not include future expenses of the continuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, nor does it include upfront transition costs of restructuring Social Security as Bush has proposed. The administration will submit a separate supplemental request largely for Afghanistan and Iraq operations in the current fiscal year, which will be reflected in the budget charts, officials said, but war costs in 2006 and beyond will not be. Nor will be the cost of Bush's Social Security plan, which would begin in 2009 and result in $754 billion in additional debt over its first five years.

Food Stamps Stay

Tactically, eliminating food stamps through a farm subsidies " bumper shot " would be brilliant, but not really necessary. The attack on the subsidies is a symbolic shout-out to Bush's conservative base, the CATO's and Stephen Moore's of the world. To let that die while simultaneously kidney-punching the poor would win neither the President nor the party any friends, and let's not forget a farm industry plenty able to support Democrats in the '06 midterms. If Bush is taking them on, my hunch is he's doing it for real. And if he loses, food stamps is one of those programs with sacrosanct symbolism, retaining a facade of compassionate conservatism has been important to this bunch and I can't see them sacrificing it for such slight budgetary gain.

Making His Move

One more time, let's have no question of what Edwards is staking his next run on: In what appeared to be an early start for the 2008 campaign cycle, John Edwards told New Hampshire Democrats on Saturday that poverty was "one of the great moral issues of our time," and he pledged to help fight it. "It may seem like an impossible goal to end poverty, but that's what the skeptics said about all of our other great challenges," said Mr. Edwards, the former vice-presidential candidate. "If we can put a man on the moon, conquer polio and put libraries of information on a chip, then we can end poverty for those who want to work for a better life." Not bad. For a variety of reasons, I'm no fan of Edwards, but I'm all for a Democrat planting himself on stage and demanding an end to economic injustice. That he's doing so can only be good for the debate.

Gambling is a Virtue (Just Like Bill Bennett Thought)

I won't be watching the Superbowl today. Like Steve Clemons , I just can't get excited about big dudes chasing each other up and down the field. It's weird, I love football -- played it for four years -- but, like with all other sports, I have no interest in watching others do the deed. And since my girlfriend isn't around this weekend, there's nobody present to force me in front of the television (take that , traditional gender roles!). Nevertheless, this is the sort of thing I can get excited about. Over at Duncan's place they're doing some gambling -- if your team loses, you donate to one of the predefined charities. I do realize that you're betting money with no hope of making any, but that's okay, think of it as role-playing for Social Security privatization.

The Birds

Be afraid. Be very, very afraid .

"I Actually Voted For the Farm Subsidies Before I Voted Against Them"

5/13/2002 : President Bush on Monday signed a 10-year, $190 billion farm bill that promises to expand subsidies to growers. "This bill is generous and will provide a safety net for farmers, and it will do so without encouraging overproduction and depressing prices," Bush said at a signing ceremony. "It will allow farmers and ranchers to plan and operate based on market realities, not government dictates." 2/5/2005 : President Bush will seek deep cuts in farm and commodity programs in his new budget and in a major policy shift will propose overall limits on subsidy payments to farmers, administration officials said Saturday. The bill, by the way, is a good one aimed at ending one of America's most disgraceful economic policies. But it really should end the discussion on whether or not Bush is a man of principle. It reverses legislation he supported and signed three years ago in the name of political expediency, and that shouldn't be forgotten.

A Brave Old World

Is Iran the future of Iraq? With religious Shiite parties poised to take power in the new constitutional assembly, leading Shiite clerics are pushing for Islam to be recognized as the guiding principle of the new constitution. ... At the very least, the clerics say, the constitution should ensure that legal measures overseeing personal matters like marriage, divorce and family inheritance fall under Shariah, or Koranic law. For example, daughters would receive half the inheritances of sons under that law. ... Shiite politicians, recognizing a possible backlash from secular leaders and the Americans, have publicly promised not to install a theocracy similar to that of Iran, or allow clerics to run the country. But the clerics of Najaf, the holiest city of Shiite Islam, have emerged as the greatest power in the new Iraq. They forced the Americans to conform to their timetable for a political process. Their standing was bolstered last Sunday by the high turnout among Shiite voters and a...

Stop Fronting

Kristof is rightfully getting slammed for his op-ed arguing Democrats need to spend less time obstructing Bush's efforts to eviscerate Social Security and more time offering responsible plans of their own. As so often happens with these things, Kristof seems to have drawn his column from some collective press mind, as the same daring idea was popping up in pieces all weekend long (although the Post certainly gets the award for silliest literary device in service of the editorial ). But uh, quick question guys -- while you're begging, pleading and imploring the Democrats to become responsible stewards of Social Security checks, could you tell me what George Bush's idea is here? Because -- funny thing -- he won't. In fact, he keeps asking other people to offer ideas. And insofar as all he's doing is searching for proposals to read, there are plenty of liberal policy papers floating around the internet ether, all he's got to do is search. So guys? I know this is an easy piece to write. I...

Content Goes Personal

Mr. John Rogers wants to know if you Bit Torrenters would actually pay cash for television shows, and if so, how much. My answer is yes, so long as I wasn't paying for cable on top of it. That seems the future of TV, broadband-delivered entertainment that you decide on, which is a hell of a lot more efficient than the current cable wasteland that my bill gives me the deed to. But despite how good that sounds, I don't see how new programming would break through it. After all, with an endless menu of West Wing, 24, The Daily Show, Sex and the City, and softcore porn The "L" Word to choose from, where would you find the time, and how would you discover, untested shows? So what's the word, y'all? Would you pay? Or is it Bit Torrent forever?

Good To Hear From You, Buddy

My good buddy John Edwards just sent me an e-mail with his plans for the next couple of years. Figured you guys might want to know them too: I am very proud to say that I will be joining UNC to launch its new Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, which will examine innovative and practical ideas for moving more Americans out of poverty and into the middle class. The fact that millions in this country go to work every day and still live in poverty is wrong and unacceptable. This is personal to me, and I believe that it is one of the most important moral issues of our time. Together with UNC, I will work hands-on to explore creative approaches to the difficulties that families in poverty face every day. We may not have all the answers right now, but I can promise you this: we will be asking the hard questions. We will work tirelessly so that America's bright light of opportunity shines on all of us. Sounds like a plan. I'm not sure how politically savvy it is; Edwards is simply...

"Compassionate" Conservatives

Digby (italics mine): Let's face facts. The extremely dishonest approach that the Republicans are taking to bring African Americans on board with their privatized personal retirement plan is just downright racist. I'm sure that the creationist right believes that the fact black men don't live as long as whites is God's intention but the truth is that they wouldn't die younger if it weren't for poverty, disease and crime which are immoral reasons in a rich country such as ours. It's bad enough that this is happening today, but the administration is selling the idea as something that will continue for at least the next forty years as a selling point for destroying social security. It's is another case of their outrageous pomo up-is-downism. ... This is racist on a number of levels, not the least of which is that the Bush administration has made a fetish of portraying themselves as "compassionate" toward the poor with images of adorable black children and high level tokenism. They know...

Rebutting the Rebuttal

Crowley's analysis of the Democratic SOTU response is spot-on, even as it's in-line. While his criticisms of the speech are the best I've read (and you should read them ), it's general awfulness and ineffectiveness seem well accepted. The calls are already coming for the tradition to be scrapped, for the minority retort to be let out of its misery. No. There's something nicely, idealistically American about guaranteeing the opposition party airtime to respond to the President's address. Just because they don't do it well (and that goes for Republicans and Democrats), doesn't mean it shouldn't be done. What it does mean is that it needs to rescued from irrelevancy. So let's start at the beginning. It's a speech. To succeed it requires three things: a speaker people want to listen to in the first place; a speaker possessing the oratorical skill needed to retain the audience's attention, and a well-crafted text. Working backwards, last night's text was poor. Cluttered and off-key, it...

Be Afraid

Responding to Victor Davis Hanson's bizarre assertion that withdrawing from Iraq would choke off reformist movements in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Palestine, Matt notes that all these governments are in fact allied with us already, making the reformist movements anti-us as much as anti-them. Hanson and his ilk seem quick to underestimate the level of hatred and fear we inspire among the region's populations; we are considered the firepower keeping the Palestinians oppressed and the dictators in power. As such, keeping our army concentrated in the area is much more likely to discourage reformists trying to topple or pressure the dictators we count as friends than inspire them. Post-Iraq, post Iran-Contra, post Intifada, post-Desert Storm abandonment of Iraqi dissidents, and post-Operation Praying Mantis (where we accidentally shot down an Iranian civilian aircraft), no one in the Middle East doubts our ability to bring massive force to bear in support of unpredictable goals. Bush's...

How To Do Social Security

Note to Dems -- It's like this and like this and like that , and uh. Update : I should probably say something more on this. Berry's genius is in realizing that Bush is making an effective public play to seem reasonable, open-minded, and good-hearted concerning Social Security. He's using Congress as cannon fodder, getting them to float an unpopular plan that they'd never touch if the White House didn't have bayonets to their backs. But just because he's kept his mouth shut concerning his intentions doesn't mean that others have shown similar discipline. So just as Republicans use Michael Moore to tar the national security bona fides of moderate and even hawkish Democrats, we should use Grover Norquist's statements to define the President's plans. Props to Marion Berry for figuring it out.

Just One?

Quoth Taegan Goddard: With yet another article on President Bush's infatuation with Natan Sharansky's The Case for Democracy, I'm beginning to think this is the only book he's ever read. Heh. Indeed.