January 03, 2004
What Is the Point of the Republican Party?

David Brooks argues that the Republican Party has no reason to exist--save to channel money to favored businessmen and their lobbyist friends: Op-Ed Columnist: Running on Reform: ...The G.O.P. used to have a governing philosophy: reducing the size of the state.... But reducing the size of government can no longer be Republicans' animating principle... Republicans have no credibility on this subject.... Now Republicans control everything, and over the past three years the size of government has still increased.... Republicans have learned through hard experiences that most Americans do not actually want their government sharply cut.... With its old governing philosophy obsolete, the Republican Party is adrift domestically.... Meanwhile, corporate lobbyists have jumped into the vacuum. If principles aren't going to guide the Republican Party, the opportunists are happy to take control......

Posted by DeLong at 08:33 AM

December 24, 2003
The Fourth Great Awakening and the Second Gilded Age

Mark Kleiman tries to understand why his karmic burden is so heavy, and why he is condemned to live through both the Fourth Great Awakening and the Second Gilded Age. "I wish none of this had happened!" wails Mark. So do I, and so do all who live in such times. But that is not our task. Our task is to decide what to do with the times that are given us: Mark A. R. Kleiman: The Second Gilded Age: Tom Spencer has a front-line report on the political psychology of the upper crust in a highly stratified society. It makes him think of the Gilded Age (his specialty as an historian) and of a Star Trek episode which I haven't seen but which from his description is derivative of the Eloi-and-Morlocks society of The Time Machine. Spencer's rather chilling account puts some social meat on the bare-bones statistics on inequality and mobility cited earlier in this space. I must have done something really awful in a previous life to be condemned to live through both the Fourth Great Awakening and the Second Gilded Age. Perhaps I voted for Harding....

Posted by DeLong at 11:58 AM

December 15, 2003
Weekend Update

Matthew Yglesias's indispensable Weekend Update, from TAPPED: TAPPED: December 2003 Archives: WEEKEND UPDATE. Holiday office parties distract you from the news? Here's what you missed: The Columnists David Brooks. The real problem with the president is that he doesn't lie enough -- plus, bonus dig at Al Gore. Nicholas Kristof. Since the Chinese now drink all kinds of coffee, demands for political freedom can't be far behind. Thomas Friedman. Bush has no plan for Iraq, "and that really bothers me," which I probably should have thought of before the war. Jim Hoagland. Bush's betrayal of Taiwan last week was part of a brilliant secret plan to help the Taiwanese out, and I've also got a bridge you might be interested in buying. George Will. Things are all messed up in Russia and Northern Ireland, so they'll probably be messed up in Iraq, too. The Op-Ed You Actually Need To Read Atiq Sarwari and Robert Crews in the Los Angeles Times warn of the dangers in Afghanistan's new, centralizing constitution. The Shows Fox News Sunday. John Kerry trims his sails and takes a more hawkish tack in the wake of Saddam Hussein's capture. Meet The Press. Watch Joe Lieberman gloat as...

Posted by DeLong at 11:51 AM

December 12, 2003
Recall Arnold Schwarzenegger Too

Oh. And recall Arnold Schwarzenegger too: The Smoking Gun: Archive....

Posted by DeLong at 09:21 AM

November 25, 2003
Weekend Update

Matthew Yglesias's Weekend Update on TAPPED: TAPPED: November 2003 Archives: WEEKEND UPDATE. Distracted from the important stuff by Michael Jackson? Here's what you missed: The Columnists David Brooks. Marriage is even better than Internet dating -- we should let gay people do it, too. Nicholas Kristof. I like free trade, but these intellectual property rules are killing people. Maureen Dowd. Why compare the situation in Iraq to Algeria when I could compare it to a movie about Algeria? Thomas Friedman. The real problem with terrorism is that it's inconvenient for Marshall Scholars. Jim Hoagland. The time has come to ignore the fact that the president doesn't have an actual democracy-promotion policy and to blame Joschka Fischer for Arab authoritarianism instead. George Will. I'm pretending to say good things about Dick Gephardt, but really I'm condemning him and all other Democrats. The Op-Ed You Actually Need To Read Max Holland in The Washington Post says Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories were part of a KGB plot. The Shows Fox News Sunday. Fair and balanced panel condemns the Medicare bill, while Bill Kristol offers a half-hearted defense ("this is what it means to be a governing majority"). Meet The Press. Tom Daschle pretends...

Posted by DeLong at 02:33 PM

November 21, 2003
Senate Discovers Spine

Ah. Finally some good news from the Congress: Opponents block energy bill, leaving passage in doubt - Nov. 21, 2003: Opponents of the $31 billion Republican energy bill blocked its passage in the Senate Friday morning, throwing the future of the President's energy policy -- a main plank of his domestic agenda -- into grave doubt. The bill's backers narrowly failed to win the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster led by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), with six rebel Republicans providing the key votes. The final vote was 57 to 40, but Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said Republicans will keep trying. "I do want to let colleagues know this will not be the last vote," said Frist. "We are going to keep voting until we pass it and get it to the President's desk." Backers and opponents of the bill both said a provision providing protection from lawsuits for firms that make and distribute MTBE, a gasoline additive that has been found to contaminate groundwater, turned opinion against the bill. "This bill is a full-scale retreat when it comes to environmental protection for America," said Schumer. "To walk away from basic environmental protection in the name of...

Posted by DeLong at 11:12 AM

November 19, 2003
Paid Lobbyist Advertisement

Nick Confessore writes that every Tech Central Station article should carry a little note at the bottom saying, "paid lobbyist advertisement." "Meet the Press" by Nicholas Confessore: ...Nowhere is this more apparent than on TCS, where Glassman and his colleagues have weighed in on everything from which telecommunications technologies should be the most heavily regulated to whether Microsoft is a threat to other software companies. But TCS doesn't just act like a lobbying shop. It's actually published by one--the DCI Group, a prominent Washington "public affairs" firm specializing in P.R., lobbying, and so-called "Astroturf" organizing, generally on behalf of corporations, GOP politicians, and the occasional third-world despot. The two organizations share most of the same owners, some staff, and even the same suite of offices in downtown Washington, a block off K Street. As it happens, many of DCI's clients are also "sponsors" of the site it houses. TCS not only runs the sponsors' banner ads; its contributors aggressively defend those firms' policy positions, on TCS and elsewhere... UPDATE: Joshua Micah Marshall writes: Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: November 16, 2003 - November 22, 2003 Archives: For years, the trendsetter in Astroturf has been DCI. And a couple...

Posted by DeLong at 07:50 AM

November 17, 2003
Fred Barnes Discovers Racism in America

The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes is shocked, shocked to learn that there is still racism in America: The Wilder Effect: BOBBY JINDAL'S DEFEAT in the Louisiana governor's race Saturday is a bigger loss for Republicans than just an office they've held for eight years. For now, it denies the party an impressive new national figure, a 32-year-old Indian-American who's destined to be a political star sometime--but not yet. Why did Jindal lose after leading his Democratic opponent, Kathleen Blanco, in statewide polls in the weeks before the election? In a word, race. What occurred was the "Wilder effect," named after the black Virginia governor elected in 1989. Wilder, a Democrat, polled well, then won narrowly. Many white voters, it turned out, said they intended to vote for a black candidate when they really didn't. Questioned by pollsters, they were leery of being seen as racially prejudiced. Jindal's advisers worried that he might lose the "Bubba vote," rural whites unwilling to vote for a black candidate or even a dark-skinned Indian-American. The Jindal camp's fears were realized. A Republican normally needs two-thirds of the white vote to win in Louisiana to compensate for losing nearly all of the black vote. But...

Posted by DeLong at 12:06 PM


On TAPPED, Matthew Yglesias serves as an information pre-processor: TAPPED: November 2003 Archives: WEEKEND UPDATE. Sunny Sunday keep you away from the news? Here's what you missed: The Columnists Nicholas Kristof. Forget that stuff I said last week about Democrats being too vitriolic -- Bush sucks. David Brooks. Only unilateral surrender can save the Democratic Party. Thomas Friedman. If everyone was moderate, then we could all get along. Maureen Dowd. Even a column about organ donation wouldn't be complete without a few pop culture references. George Will. Democrats who are for multilateralism in Iraq and against it in the WTO are hypocritical, whereas conservative columnists who are against it in Iraq and for it in the WTO are not. David Broder. The states sure are looking bankrupt. Jim Hoagland. This argument would be a lot more plausible if Arab-on-Arab violence was really a new phenomenon. The Op-Ed You Actually Need To Read Max Boot explains what Vietnam has to teach us about winning the war in Iraq. The Shows: Fox News Sunday. As if 40 hours wasn't enough, Tony Snow hosts a fair and balanced discussion of judicial nominations with Tom Daschle and his panel. Face The Nation. Ted Kennedy...

Posted by DeLong at 09:30 AM

November 10, 2003
Matthew Yglesias's Indispensable "Weekend Update"

Matthew Yglesias's now-indispensable "Weekend Update" at TAPPED: Weekend Update: WEEKEND UPDATE. Spent the weekend trying to free humanity from a computer-generated simulation? Here's what you missed: The Columnists David Brooks. Internet dating represents a return to traditional mores. It's really hard to come up with something to write about twice a week. Nicholas Kristof. Sanctions never work, except in South Africa where I also said they wouldn't work. Colbert King. There sure is a lot of crime in Matthew Yglesias' neighborhood. Maureen Dowd. Iraq is like The Untouchables . . . or maybe it's like a Disney movie . . . or maybe . . . Thomas Friedman. This occupation is humiliating Iraqis, so we need to hand power over to them, which is what I've been saying for a while except when the French were proposing it and I thought the status quo was OK. David Broder. Democrats really need to do better in the South, but instead of offering a constructive solution I'll criticize Howard Dean's lack of a constructive solution. George Will. I'm getting bored with this whole "political commentary" thing, so here's a movie review instead. Jim Hoagland. We must win Sunni hearts and minds with...

Posted by DeLong at 07:40 PM

October 30, 2003
Ken MacLeod on the Tories

Why don't you drop the polite euphemisms and tell us what you really think, Uncle Ken? The Early Days of a Better Nation: It's cheap and easy for those of us who have always hated the Tories to gloat over the current mess in the Tory party. The party that bestrode the 80s like Godzilla has reduced itself to one that can't mobilize even its natural base of scabs, spivs, spies and kulaks, possibly because it's hard to say 'scabs, spivs, spies and kulaks' while drunk. A party whose sole defining policy, hostility to the Euro and the European Union, is actually quite popular well inside Labour lines, but which has made Eurosceptics look like somebody conversing with a litter bin while rummaging in it for food. A party that replaces a man who looks as if he's been replaced by his own waxwork with a man who looks like he sleeps in a coffin. A party that can't effectively oppose the most distrusted Prime Minister in living memory. But - But nothing. As I said, it's cheap and easy for those of us who have always hated the Tories to gloat over the current mess in the Tory party....

Posted by DeLong at 08:10 PM

October 23, 2003
Gaps in Seisin! Jurisdiction Over Guantanamo

Michael Froomkin politely tells a commentator that just because U.S. judges refuse to take jurisdiction over Guantanamo Bay does not mean that Cuban judges take jurisdiction. According to what the courts currently say, nobody has jurisdiction: Guantanamo Bay is a gap in seisin-it is a terra sine domine, a land without a lord, and among the oldest principles of the Feudal and Ancient Common Law is that such a gap in seisin is impossible--that for every square inch of the earth not currently engaged in active military operations, there is a normal peacetime court to take jurisdiction and judge offenses. Michael Froomkin seems to think that America's judges have made a big mistake in claiming that they have no jurisdiction to enforce the Constitution, the laws of the United States of America, or the common law in Guantanamo Bay. It's hard to read the 1903 and 1934 treaties between the U.S. and Cuba as doing anything other than granting such jurisdiction to the federal courts. Discourse.net: Personally, I would be prepared to read the words "the United States shall exercise complete jurisdiction and control" language of the treaty as invoking the powers of all three branches of government, not just...

Posted by DeLong at 04:05 PM

Progress (Why Not Freedom too?)

The far-sighted and sharp-witted Eric Alterman has signed on to John Podesta and Sarah Wartell's Center for American Progress. How does one sign on? Their "Economy" section is still... quite thin... completely empty, in fact....

Posted by DeLong at 11:14 AM

October 14, 2003
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? Part CCCCLXXII

Paul Krugman likes to joke that the Washington press corps has been so whipped into shape that if the Bush White House were to announce tomorrow that the earth was flat, the following day's headlines would read "Opinions About Shape of Earth Differ." Matthew Yglesias finds the Washington Post's Jim VandeHei and his editor going one step further: TAPPED: October 2003 Archives: WHY STOP NOW? I'm not Joe Lieberman's biggest fan, but looking at his travails in the current presidential campaign, I can't help but feel sorry for him sometimes. He goes ahead and proposes a tax cut for middle class families to be paid for by a tax hike on very rich families and The Washington Post gives him "Lieberman Proposes Tax Hikes on The Wealthy" as a headline. Why not "Liberman Proposes Middle Class Tax Relief"? After all, there are far more people (married couples earning between $14,000 and $114,650) who would see their taxes go down under Lieberman's plan than there are people who would see them go up. If I recall correctly, Bush's tax cut proposals weren't greeted with headlines like "Bush Unveils Bold Deficit Increase Plan." The Post's headline isn't "Opinions About Shape of Earth...

Posted by DeLong at 04:34 PM

Center for American Progress

Ah: American Progress - Home - Page...

Posted by DeLong at 06:13 AM

October 09, 2003
Tax the Texans!

Billmon writes about Arnold Schwarzenegger's first initative for how to balance the budget--his "Tax the Texans!" plan. The idea is to get the federal government to collect tax money from citizens of other states and give them to California: Whiskey Bar: Uncle Sugar: Having promised the voters of California he can plug an $8 billion hole in the state's budget, repeal the hated car tax increase and boost education spending, without raising any other taxes, Governor-elect Schwarzenegger apparently has figured out where the needed miracle is going to come from: the federal Treasury. "I will make sure that I can meet with President Bush as quickly as possible, because I have a whole bunch of business, California business, to talk to him about and take care of," Schwarzenegger said during a short news conference at the Century Plaza Hotel. "There's a lot of money we can get from the federal government." The Bush White House is not pleased to hear this: Washington Wire: The White House gives a thumbs-down to Schwarzenegger's talk of more federal aid. "We've already spent $20 billion in cold, hard cash" to bail out states, says a spokesman....

Posted by DeLong at 07:44 PM

October 07, 2003
Public Virtues

Virginia Postrel tells me to vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger for governor of California: Dynamist Blog: MACHIAVELLIAN MOMENT: ...the stories are creepy, the general pattern is believable, and that pattern suggests that Arnold is, or was, a person of bad character. That doesn't mean he shouldn't be governor, given the circumstances and alternatives. Good character is desirable in a governor, but it is neither necessary nor sufficient. I don't countenance poisoning one's enemies at dinner, but Machiavelli had a point. The essential public virtues are different from the essential private ones. And which public virtues matter depends a great deal on the political system. I wouldn't want a man of Arnold's private character to wield power in a illiberal system... What, pray tell, are the public virtues that Arnold Schwarzenegger has that would put him in the top 500,000 Californians best qualified to be governor?...

Posted by DeLong at 09:33 AM

September 27, 2003
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? Part CCCCLXIX

Whopper of the Week Department: Sacramento Bee columnist Daniel Weintraub on California governor candidate Tom McClintock's performance in last Wednesday's debate: September 24: [Tom] McClintock demonstrated his encyclopedic knowledge of state government, steady and stable as usual, but didn't do anything to wow you... September 27: McClintock's [claims would]... get a serious candidate in serious trouble. His contention... that he could cut $18 billion [ a year] in bureaucratic waste... "without breaking a sweat"... laughable...most of what the state spends from its $71 billion general fund goes to people providing services... teachers and doctors... directly to the poor... welfare... aged, blind and disabled... Can't the Sacramento Bee find somebody to fill Weintraub's space who (a) knows the California state budget, (b) knows the California state regulatory apparatus, (c) knows the California state politicians, and (d) can remember what he himself wrote between Wednesday night and Saturday morning? UPDATE: The other thing I want to know is: how does Weintraub learn that the party line has changed? And when, exactly, does it change? Wednesday night McClintock was somebody whose "laughable" claims about the budget, claims that would "get a serious candidate in serious trouble," were to be passed over in silence...

Posted by DeLong at 06:29 PM

September 25, 2003
Peter Camejo Is an Even Bigger Sleazebag Than Tom McClintock

When McClintock said: Read Recall Debate Transcript: MC CLINTOCK: ...abolish California's car tax. It is a tax on a necessity of life. Not a penny of it goes to fixing the roads... very first act... an executive order to rescind the... [car] tax.... I want to see it abolished... Peter Camejo said: Amazing, Tom, but as a Green I agree with you. As a Green? As the leader of the California Green Party? A party that I had thought was dedicated to environmentalism--to reducing pollution, and to making those who engaged in polluting activities pay to repair the damage their pollution does to the environment? If high taxes on polluting vehicles and their emissions is not what Peter Camejo and the Green Party stand for, do they stand for anything at all? Surely not. I now think that Peter Camejo is the biggest sleazebag of all the candidates for California Governor....

Posted by DeLong at 03:28 PM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? Part CCCCXI

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps? The Sacramento Bee's Daniel Weintraub writes about how in last night's debate: California Insider - No clear winner: ...McClintock demonstrated his encyclopedic knowledge of state government, steady and stable as usual... "Encyclopedic knowledge"? "Steady and stable"? Let's go to the videotape: Read Recall Debate Transcript: McCLINTOCK: That's a very important question. First of all, this state is already spending a larger portion of people's earnings than at any time in its history. We are not suffering a revenue problem. In the last four years of this administration, inflation and population combined has grown 21 percent. Our revenues are up 25 percent. That's after the dot-com collapse, after the car tax and after state revenues. We're taking in significantly more revenues than inflation and population. The problem is, we have a 38 percent increase in state spending in that same period of time. We haven't gotten a 38 percent increase in highway construction and school construction. We're paying through the nose for this government to provide. And it's not hard to find ways to find a system that produces as little as California and costs as much. Let me just give...

Posted by DeLong at 03:23 PM

September 24, 2003
Schwarzenegger Does Have a Budget Plan

The New Republic writes about Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget plan: The New Republic Online: etc.: Cut taxes substantially, marginally lower spending by wringing inefficiencies out of the state budget (management inefficiencies of the kind Schwarzenegger is talking about are notoriously stingy as a source of savings), and dramatically increase spending on education. Hopefully Schwarzenegger will use tonight's debate to explain how this qualifies him as a fiscal disciplinarian......

Posted by DeLong at 04:06 PM

Republican Family Values

From Entertainment Weekly, via Body and Soul: Body and Soul: Toilet politics: But nothing in T3 bears Schwarzenegger's creative stamp more than his epic tussle with the Terminatrix, a battle that begins in a bathroom. The sequence was made longer and more elaborate thanks to the actor's largess -- and his singular imagination. "As we were rehearsing, I saw this toilet bowl," says Schwarzenegger, an impish smile crossing his face. "How many times do you get away with this -- to take a woman, grab her upside down, and bury her face in a toilet bowl?.... "The thing is, you can do it, because in the end, I didn't do it to a woman -- she's a machine! We could get away with it without being crucified by who-knows-what group."...

Posted by DeLong at 10:19 AM

September 22, 2003
Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? Part CCCLXIII

A week or so ago I found Sacramento Bee columnist Daniel Weintraub complaining because Arnold Schwarzenegger was treating him like a whining child: Daniel Weintraub: I asked Schwarzenegger exactly what was missing from the workers compensation overhaul the Legislature passed this week. In other words, if he were governor, what would he have demanded that lawmakers did not produce? He declined to answer, falling back again on his general talking points and insisting that the package adopted by lawmakers was not sufficient, but refusing to say why it was not sufficient.... This is not new, of course. We know by now that Schwarzenegger is not a policy wonk. He intends to lead with broad strokes while delegating the nitty-gritty to others. And I don't expect him, or any candidate, to be able to recite chapter and verse on every issue discussed in the Legislature. But Schwarzenegger has chosen to make this issue the centerpiece of his economic plan. I would expect his staff to follow the negotiations, compare them to his proposals, and find at least one specific, major reform that he wants to see adopted and then brief him on that issue so he can respond to a question...

Posted by DeLong at 08:47 AM

September 21, 2003
Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? Part CCCLXI

Matthew Yglesias points out that William Greider is another journalist living in his own private fantasy world: Matthew Yglesias: You more typically see it from the right, but William Greider ably demonstrates that paranoid Clinton-hatred exists on the left as well:Clark's much bigger problem is that he is the Clintons' candidate – Bill and Hillary's pick to stop Howard Dean and keep warm the leader's chair until '08 when the stars are supposed to align for Hillary's candidacy. If Clark wins the nomination and loses the election, that's fully compatible with the Clinton restoration plan (and maybe would increase Dems' hunger for the re-ascendancy).Note the structure of the argument. The Clinton's are supporting Clark, and because the utter malevolence of the family can simply be assumed, we may conclude that Clark is a weak candidate because obviously the Clintons want the Democrats to nominate a loser. We don't even consider the possibility that the Clintons badly want to see Bush lose and are backing Clark (insofar as they really are backing Clark) out of a belief (possibly mistaken) that he stands the best chance of winning. If you feel compelled to ascribe ugly motives to Bill and Hillary, you could...

Posted by DeLong at 08:03 AM

September 19, 2003
Finally! A Coherent Defense of Nader!

In comments, Alkali has the first coherent and sensible defense of Ralph Nader's actions in the 2000 election that I have seen: I don't know why people always blame Ralph Nader for Bush's victory in 2000 when it's clear that God could have prevented Bush's election by smiting Bush, or alternatively letting him be hit by a meteorite. So don't blame Ralph. It's God's fault. Blame God, not Ralph....

Posted by DeLong at 07:43 AM

September 18, 2003
Eric Alterman Gets Medieval on Ralph Nader

Eric Alterman has a new favorite person: Eric Alterman: Altercation : Speaking of people who need their (metaphorical) butts kicked, but good, Ralph Nader whines, "Old-timers years ago would have wondered what the Mayor means by marketing NYC. Cities were viewed more benignly when they were more livable, more employable at good wages, more replete with public institutions like good libraries, good public transit, good schools, good hospitals and clinics and good recreational facilities in the neighborhoods. New York City is crumbling on these measurements."        Hey Ralph, no one, and I mean no one on the planet, is more responsible for the deterioration in the quality of life of my city than you are, bud. All you had to do was say, "I ran a great race and thanks for your support but this guy Bush is scary. Vote for Al, not me and we'll we what we can get at the bargaining table." But no, you wanted to elect Bush. And you did. Congrats.                All U.S. cities are struggling under the weight of the president's malign neglect and the costs of his fiscal policies and needless war. And with...

Posted by DeLong at 10:27 AM

September 16, 2003
I Don't Understand Reporters

I am coming to the conclusion that I will never understand reporters. Specifically, I will never understand their desperate fixation on "he said, she said" clashes of opinion. (1) When they find a story in which pretty much everybody agrees, they still tend to turn it into "he said, she said." (2) And when they find a story in which one side is clearly lying, they still tend to turn it into "he said, she said." Paul Krugman has a joke about this: if the Bush Administration were to announce that it thought the earth was flat, the next day's headlines would read: "Opinions Differ About Shape of Earth." This article does trick (1) to me and Greg Mankiw. (This is an example of trick (2).) Greg and I agree on a huge amount of stuff. I think that the 3.5%-4.0% growth we are likely to have over the next couple of years will produce employment growth (an average of perhaps 120,000 a month) but will do little if anything to reduce the unemployment rate. He thinks that the 3.5%-4.0% growth we are likely to have over the next couple of years will produce employment growth (an average of perhaps...

Posted by DeLong at 06:07 PM

September 13, 2003
I Don't Understand Mickey Kaus Either

Mickey Kaus writes: Kausfiles: [Schwarzenegger] entertains [Johnny] Carson with the story of how he and a bodybuilder friend... got "lucky" when there was an earthquake in L.A. in the early 1970s... advertised in the L.A. Times as "European special bricklayers."... He continues: SCHWARZENEGGER: In the meantime, [my partner] climbed up on the roof to check the chimney--and he, of course, is a very strong guy and a [weight] lifter--he pushed all the chimneys over so they fell down. So these people come and say 'Oh thank you so much for helping us. This could have fallen on somebody's head, you know. Thank you for doing it for us.' CARSON: What a racket. You go and push chimneys down and then rebuild them. SCHWARZENEGGER: Exactly.... As a non-homeowner, I would put this in the revealing-but-not-fatal scandal category. It does seem to reflect a Schwarzenegger habit of seeing other people as marks... Yet Mickey Kaus also "might be willing to take the risk of installing this untested performer in office." Someone who regards you--me--all of us--the whole state--as marks to be fleeced? In God's name, why? It's not as though it would even be especially entertaining or amusing. Maybe it's time for...

Posted by DeLong at 07:57 PM

I Still Don't Understand Daniel Weintraub

I still don't understand the Sacramento Bee's Daniel Weintraub. He writes: California Insider - The bogus bill: After his San Diego "Ask Arnold" event, I asked Schwarzenegger exactly what was missing from the workers compensation overhaul the Legislature passed this week. In other words, if he were governor, what would he have demanded that lawmakers did not produce? He declined to answer, falling back again on his general talking points and insisting that the package adopted by lawmakers was not sufficient, but refusing to say why it was not sufficient. Here is his entire answer: "What is the number one thing you want to accomplish in workers compensation? You want to take 10 billion dollars out of that whole thing, so that we can lower the rates. We have to lower the rates to half in order for businesses to survive. There's no indication that it will do that, that it will even save one penny. Experts have already said next year the costs will increase to 80 billion dollars. So I think it is one of those things you see quite frequently now before elections: Let's patch it up quickly. It's a bogus bill. It’s pre-election kind of work....

Posted by DeLong at 07:38 PM

September 11, 2003
Hooray For the Doofus State!

Our cunning plan to recapture the proud title of Doofus State for California has succeeded! Florida will never catch us now! We got our candidate statements for the recall election today: Alex St. James: Once an aspirant Catholic Priest, I support life from conception to the grave and the right to bear arms... Vik S. Bajwa: Since the days of the Gold Rush of mid-1880's, its diversity of over 2 centuries, where over 148 different languages, being spoken every day, we have but one thing in common--Dream and Success... D. (Logan Darrow) Clements: Atlas Shrugged, America's second most influential book, was written by an immigrant to California who predicted our current mess and offered an inspiring solution... Warren Farrell: My recent research has uncovered why children raised by single dads do better than children raised by single moms; why men now earn less money than women for the same work... Lorraine (Abner Zurd) Fontanes: With my skills as a filmmaker and an arts administrator, I will work to return common sense... Trek Thunder Kelly: Dear Voters, Please vote for me, thus breaking the Seventh Seal and incurring Armageddon... Bill Prady: You know the wonderful world that exists in television comedies...?......

Posted by DeLong at 07:17 PM

September 03, 2003
"Either I'm Nuts, or I Think the Voters Are Marks to Be Gulled"

Virginia Postrel asks why Tom McClintock... won't give a straight answer about budget cuts. McClintock has been a fiscall tightwad for years, and he knows the state budget well. Why doesn't he tell us what spending he wants to get rid of? Even if he loses, the state would benefit from hearing some specific ideas for spending reductions... The answer is clear. Either (a) Tom McClintock is nuts, and thinks he is a magic administrator who can save 12% of everything California spends by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse; or (b) he believes that if offered an honest choice Californians will choose the higher-tax bigger-government Davis-Bustamante position, and that his only chance is to use smoke and mirrors to fuzz the issues and confuse the voters. You can take your pick--in neither case should even a yellow-dog Republican vote for him. Virginia Postrel also asks why Arnold [thinks he] can get away with his current, "Elect me, I'm a movie star businessman and I love California" platform.... [H]e won't be able to lead anything other than calisthenics if he gets elected without telling voters how he'd make policy--and budget--tradeoffs. Eventually he'll have to make someone mad, and it will be...

Posted by DeLong at 09:43 PM

Voting Behavior

Richard Freeman, in What, Me Vote?, estimates that the increased inequality in US voting from 1964 to 2000 raised the family income of the median voter from the 53rd percentile of the income distribution in 1964 to the 59th percentile of the income distribution in 2000......

Posted by DeLong at 01:28 PM

September 02, 2003
Sounding a Bit "Shrill"

Matthew Yglesias says that Andrew Sullivan sounds a bit cranky: Matthew Yglesias: Fun Vacation?: Andrew Sullivan's back and, frankly, he sounds a bit cranky for someone who's just been relaxing on the beach:This was the month in which it became official that the Bush administration is not interested in restraining the size of the federal government [...] Nixon II? The other aspect of Bush's domestic policy that is now undeniable is insolvency. [...] you can't argue that Bush has shown even the slightest concern about it. [...] it's getting hard to believe the White House is in control of events any more. Osama bin Laden is regrouping in Afghanistan; Saddam, perhaps in league with al Qaeda, is fighting back in Iraq [...] the longer the impasse continues the harder it will be to get ourselves out of it. [...] if we are in a new and vital war, why are we not sending more troops to fight it? [...] The response so far does not strike me as commensurate with the problem.And he didn't even mention the administration's social conservatism, the usual Sullivan-Bush sticking point... I don't think he sounds cranky. I think he sounds shrill. I mean, you can...

Posted by DeLong at 08:31 PM

August 30, 2003
Ah. Good to Know

From the Wall Street Journal: WSJ.com - Washington Wire: New liberal think tank headed by former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta finally gets a name: Center for American Progress. Shouldn't "freedom" and "prosperity" be in there too?...

Posted by DeLong at 09:40 PM

August 25, 2003
Mirrors and Smoke

Daniel Weintraub of the Sacramento Bee says: California Insider: Bill Simon might be gone, but he doesn't want to be forgotten. He has posted his no-new-taxes budget plan on his late campaign's web site. It's worth a look. As I wrote Sunday, Simon's proposal is easily the most detailed of any plan on the table. And it includes billions in specific cuts... So I went and took a look. The bottom line (in annual expenditures): $-0.6 billion:  program changes* $-7.6 billion:  mirrors** $-1.5 billion:  smoke*** *Expenditure cuts plus car tax increase repeal. **Elimination of waste, overhead, mismanagement, and fraud. ***Tax amnesty and sales of state government assets. Now a governor who was a really good manager and really good at picking subordinates could surely squeeze some amount out of what California spends, and get us citizens of California more for our tax money. But a 13% reduction in the cost and improvement in the efficiency of everything the state of California does? I don't think the best manager in the world could attain half that. And a little experience with the world teaches one that those who overpromise administrative efficiencies are most likely to underperform--either their grasp of reality is shaky, or their...

Posted by DeLong at 01:22 PM

August 24, 2003
Dan Weintraub Is a Very Strange Person

The Sacramento Bee's Dan Weintraub is a very strange person. He believes that right-wing politicians like Simon and McClintock are selling snake oil when they tell voters they will balance California's budget without cutting programs or raising taxes by eliminating waste and sticking it to the bureaucrats: California Insider: Simon and McClintock are to the right of the California mainstream on social issues and the environment, so they are running on one issue -- smaller government. While I share their reflexes, polls suggest that Californians are unwilling to give up any of the government services they get now in exchange for the ideal of limited government. And while both candidates can credibly claim that there is still plenty of waste to cut in state government, I don't think the budget can be balanced by cutting waste alone. The gap is too large, and most of the money is in transfer payments to program recipients, not bureaucrats. Californians are simply demanding more services than their taxes can support. The state must either cut programs or raise taxes or both... Weintraub admits he has absolutely no clue what Arnold Schwarzenegger would do as governor: Californians, if they want Arnold [Schwarzenegger] to be...

Posted by DeLong at 02:52 PM

August 21, 2003
A Pig in a Poke

The San Francisco Chronicle's David Lazarus has no clue what Arnold Schwarzenegger's policies would be were he to become governor of California. And neither does anybody else. This makes Lazarus very uneasy--he thinks that voting for Schwarzenegger is a foolish thing to do, and that Warren Buffett and George Shultz have made a mistake in signing up for the Schwarzenegger team: Schwarzenegger offers few specifics in plans for economy / Long on economic advisers, short on specifics: For Arnold Schwarzenegger, this isn't an election. It's a hostile takeover. He won't get into specifics because he's now in a quiet period, performing due diligence for his acquisition of state office. Facts and figures? Forget it. "The public doesn't care about facts and figures," Schwarzenegger told a gathering of several hundred reporters after the inaugural meeting of his "Economic Recovery Council," a group of 19 business leaders headed by Warren Buffett and George Shultz. "They've heard figures for the past five years," the bodybuilder- turned-actor-turned-candidate said. "What the people want to know is if you're tough enough to clean house."... He made his remarks with Buffett and Shultz flanking him at the podium. The two looked on quietly, and perhaps a little...

Posted by DeLong at 07:34 AM

August 19, 2003
Matthew Yglesias Is Fair and Balanced

Matthew Yglesias is fair and balanced. The Washington Post, however, is not: Matthew Yglesias: Fair And Balanced: It was good of The Washington Post to dedicate a whole editorial to whacking Howard Dean around for even considering pulling out of the public-financing system for the primaries while basically ignoring George W. Bush's long-since-announced intention to do the same....

Posted by DeLong at 08:06 AM

Paul Bruno Is Fair and Balanced

The epistemopolitan has a link to Paul Bruno, who is fair and balanced and explains why the press corps--the press corps that trumpeted a Gallup poll as showing that Arnold Schwarzenegger had 42% support in California--is neither. A Fortiori: Fair & Balanced: Scatterbrain: When the Field Poll putting Cruz Bustamante ahead of Arnold Schwarzenegger came out on the 16th, it was surprising to many people who had been lead to believe that Schwarzenegger had a sizeable lead on all of his opponents. The source of this confusion seems to be this Gallup poll, released on or around the 11th, which was reported in basically the same fashion by all of the mainstream news outlets. As an example, consider USA Today's coverage of the Gallup poll: If California's recall election were held today, Democrat Gray Davis would be swept out as governor and Republican political rookie Arnold Schwarzenegger would be swept in....Schwarzenegger muscled into a big early lead on the motley list of candidates to step into Davis' job if he is recalled. A near-majority of the voters surveyed — 42% — say there's a very good or good chance they will go for the Hollywood leading man. 42%? Wow, that's...

Posted by DeLong at 07:59 AM

August 17, 2003
California Republicans Eat Their Young!

Kevin Drum, with schadenfreude, watches California Republican politicians devour each other. If I had ever had any regrets about my conclusion a couple of years ago that Bill Simon was completely unqualified for any governmental office whatever, this would remove them. CalPundit: Simon Says: Go Negative!: Bill Simon is planning to start running radio ads tonight:"The ad will say Californians are already facing a tripling of the car tax and now Arnold Schwarzenegger's top economic adviser is suggesting a tripling of the property tax," [spokesman K.B.] Forbes said. "We're looking for a strong face-to-face debate on this issue."Attaboy, Bill, don't attack Gray Davis or the Democrats, attack one of your fellow Republicans. And it goes without saying that you should attack him in the most incendiary and unfair way possible, thus making both of you look completely unfit to be governor. I like it!...

Posted by DeLong at 05:05 PM

August 14, 2003
Why Arnold?

Robert Novak claims that he knows the reason that Arnold Schwarzenegger broke his promise to Richard Riordan to leave Riordan a clear field to run for governor: Schwarzenegger has concluded that Riordan is senile: Thumbs up or down for Arnold?: Arnold Schwarzenegger's late decision to jump into the California recall election was made after weekend meetings to plan what was supposed to be a campaign for governor by Richard Riordan... the multimillionaire movie actor was disturbed by the demeanor of the multimillionaire former mayor of Los Angeles. As Schwarzenegger later related to associates, he was unpleasantly surprised by his old friend. In their private conversation, the 73-year-old Riordan duplicated his shaky performance in losing the 2002 Republican primary for governor. To Schwarzenegger, Riordan seemed so confused and disorganized he could not possibly be elected governor... The story may be true. The story may be false but printed because Novak thinks it is a good thing to take potshots and Schwarzenegger. Novak is not a reliable source....

Posted by DeLong at 08:11 AM

August 12, 2003
Strange Mystery of the Missing Schwarzenegger Ballots!

Ah. Political Wire: Arnold Schwarzenegger "did not vote in five of the past 11 statewide elections," the San Francisco Chronicle reports. "Schwarzenegger aides said they were researching four of those five elections to see why absentee ballots were requested by the actor but not recorded as being received by elections officials." Perhaps it was because he never filled out the absentee ballots and sent them back?...

Posted by DeLong at 09:29 PM

August 10, 2003
Does the DLC Have a Purpose?

The Wall Street Journal's Al From explains why it is that Democratic Leadership Council honchos Al From and Bruce Reed are suddenly "discovering" large ideological gaps between themselves and Howard Dean. A DLC that focuses on trying to make sure the Democrats nominate electable candidates is a good thing. A DLC that invents policy gaps where they do not exist is not: WSJ.com - Politics & People: Are the Democrats about to be taken over by counter-culture, neo-socialist, pacifists?.... Who's the pied piper of this lefty brigade? Howard Dean, a physician, son of a Wall Street executive, whose chief passion is fiscal moderation; as governor of Vermont, the Washington Post chronicled last weekend, he was "a careful, even cautious steward."... [I]t's easy to see why Ted Kennedy has cool feelings towards a Democrat who is squishy on guns, the death penalty and federal support for education. But when Al From, the longtime chief of the centrist Democratic Leadership Conference, blasts the front running insurgent, it's less about ideology than power. After Bill Clinton and Al Gore, Mr. From fancies himself a kingmaker, and Dr. Dean hasn't supped sufficiently at his table.... Like any outsider, Howard Dean should expect more than...

Posted by DeLong at 07:54 AM

August 08, 2003
Notes: Nixon and Civil Rights

Topic: Notes: Nixon and Civil Rights From Sally L. Todd Sistersara@aol.com: In the election of 1960, Martin Luther King Senior did not endorse Nixon. After Kennedy personally called Coretta King when Martin Jr. had been sent to the Georgia Penitentiary for driving on an expired license, "Daddy" King made a public statement to the effect that he had a bushel full of votes he planned to deliver to John Kennedy. There is another intersection between Civil Rights and Cold War International Relations that emerged in the 1960 campaign that is most telling, though sadly it has not gotten sufficient attention. Beginning about 1957 the Ford Foundation, and a number of educational groups and institutions did a substantial study of College and Graduate Level opportunities and achievements among elite in African countries scheduled for independence or decolonization. Of course they found much lacking. Their recommendation was to establish a significant number of places in quality American institutions for offer to young Africans with both academic promise and leadership ability. In the fall of 1960 this program was scheduled to begin with the arrival of 500 African students. Ford and other foundations had arranged full scholarships for this group, with many institutions...

Posted by DeLong at 08:00 PM

August 03, 2003
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? Part CCCXXV

So who is the headline writer at the New York Times who wrote this? And why do they still have a job? Come to think of it, there is an alarming cognitive dissonance as well between the lead paragraph Nagourney and Elder wrote and the poll they are summarizing... Whiskey Bar: Spanish Lessons: Check out the headline and lead on this New York Times story: Hispanics Back Big Government and Bush, Too. Hispanics view the Democratic Party as better able than the Republican Party to manage the economy, create jobs and improve the nation's public school system, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll. But they admire President Bush and have embraced positions -- from supporting tax cuts to opposing abortion and some gay rights -- that have typically been identified with Republicans. You have to dig pretty deep down in the story to find these paragraphs: Mr. Bush won the support of 35 percent of Hispanic voters in 2000; in this poll, 21 percent of Hispanics who say they are registered to vote said they would vote for his re-election. Matthew Dowd, a pollster and senior adviser to Mr. Bush's re-election campaign, wrote a memorandum last year saying...

Posted by DeLong at 08:35 PM

August 02, 2003
Would Somebody Please Explain to Me...

Would somebody please explain to me how it can be that Fox polls routinely have George W. Bush's approval-minus-disapproval rating twenty percentage points higher than Zogby? I mean, this isn't rocket science: this is polling. If I wanted to generate such huge differences--differences that dwarf sampling standard deviations at least five-fold--I wouldn't know how to go about it. How do they do it?...

Posted by DeLong at 08:09 PM

July 30, 2003
More Lies, This Time from National Review

Just how stupid does National Review think we are? Donald Luskin picks up on the Andrew Sullivan chorus: Donald Luskin on Paul Krugman and Good Economic News on NRO Financial: Paul Krugman's worst nightmare is coming true.... "His hopes for recession seem to be receding." Now everybody who has been reading Paul Krugman knows that he has been spending a substantial chunk of his time pushing for more stimulative economic policies to avoid any return of recession. Looking back at his recent New York Times columns, Krugman has been arguing (probably correctly: at least, I agree with him) that the Federal Reserve's policies are not expansionary enough and urging policies to push us further away from the edge of deflation on... December 21, 2002; February 28, 2003; May 24, 2003; and July 25, 2003. He has been (certainly correctly: I haven't found anybody with half a brain not on the administration's current payroll who disagrees) attacking the Bush tax cut for being an extremely poor and ineffective stimulus package on... January 7, 2003; February 28, 2003; and April 22, 2003. People hoping for a renewed recession don't spend their time and energy arguing for policies to diminish the chance of...

Posted by DeLong at 09:38 AM

July 29, 2003
Costly California Recall Election

I would like the state of California to pay as little interest as possible. However, bond traders--at least those quoted by the New York Times--see the recall election as a bizarre extra source of risk, and they are going to demand higher interest rates from California bonds. I wonder how much Mr. Issa and the other sponsors of the recall election have just cost me? California Bond Prices Reflect State's Turmoil: Mark McCray, municipal bond portfolio manager at Pimco, the big mutual fund company that manages about $10 billion in municipal bonds and about $2 billion from California, is among the bond managers who has reduced his holdings of California general obligation bonds since last fall and are not yet in a buying frame of mind. "I don't have the appetite right now," he said. Though Mr. McCray said he had anticipated the credit downgrading last week for the state %u2014 to near junk bond status by Standard & Poor's %u2014 he does not think that prices have fallen enough. "I'll believe a budget when it is passed, and then I will have to read it," Mr. McCray said, referring to the fact that the Assembly and the governor have...

Posted by DeLong at 10:09 PM

Anne Applebaum on Ann Coulter

Anne Applebaum on Ann Coulter: The Mouths That Roared (washingtonpost.com): To anyone who ever tried to understand why the political left has played such a large role in American intellectual life, or why the term "anti-communist" ever became an insult, or why so many allegedly clear-thinking people feared Joe McCarthy more than Josef Stalin, Ann Coulter's new book will certainly prove thought-provoking. I should reveal here that I have spent a great deal of time -- perhaps the better part of the last 10 years -- writing about communism, Stalinism and the West's relationship to both. Yet about halfway through Treason, an extended rant on these subjects, I felt a strong urge to get up, throw the book across the room, and join up with whatever Leninist-Trotskyite-Marxist political parties still exist in America. Even the company of Maoist insurgents would be more intellectually invigorating than that of Ann Coulter. More to the point, whatever side this woman is on, I don't want to be on it. It isn't very difficult to explain why this book is so bad. A few quotes from the opening chapter will do it: "Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a position on the side...

Posted by DeLong at 04:38 PM

Excellent! The County-by-County Purple Map

the industrious Ogged, a prince among truffle-hunting internet pigs, turns up:...

Posted by DeLong at 11:32 AM

2000 Election County by County

2000 election county-by-county: OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: PURPLE AMERICA? Alas! It's a misleading red-blue map, not the more informative and accurate purple-purple one....

Posted by DeLong at 09:50 AM

July 28, 2003
False Advertising

You've seen this map a bunch of times, yes? States colored bright red or blue by which candidate they cast their electoral votes for in 2000. It shows three islands of "blue" Democrats--the west coast, the upper midwest, and the northeast--swimming in a "red" Republican sea. This map has given rise to a huge amount of bad political commentary about the division of our nation, and the large cultural and sociological gap between the "red" and the "blue." But suppose you colored states not by which candidate their electoral votes were cast for, but by who their citizens voted for. Suppose you mixed X% Democratic blue with Y% Republican red. What would it look like? It would look like this: No islands. No sharp divisions. No yawning cultural and sociological gap--just slightly varying shades of purple, mixed blue and red. Only seven states in 2000 had a Republican presidential vote share more than sixty percent. Only five states in 2000 had a Republican presidential vote share less than forty percent. The first map is false advertising--the combination of our quirky system of electing a president with the tendentious arguments political commentators interested in maximizing perceived differences. The second map...

Posted by DeLong at 10:51 PM

July 11, 2003
Notes: Ralph Nader

More evidence that Ralph Nader is an idiot: http://www.arktimes.com/mccord/120100mccord.html: Some believe that Nader wanted Bush to win all along, that his goal was to cripple the Democratic Party so as to make the Green Party and Ralph Nader more powerful in future elections (Nader will be 70 in 2004, by the way). It's the old notion that things will have to get worse before they get better. After criticizing Gore as part of a do-nothing administration in a speech at Chapman University in California, Nader said: "If it were a choice between a provocateur and an anesthetizer, I'd rather have a provocateur. It would mobilize us."... Two-thirds of those who voted for Nader said they would have voted for Gore if Nader hadn't been on the ballot....

Posted by DeLong at 11:03 PM

July 10, 2003
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? Part CCCXXII

The New York Times's Jonathan Fuerbringer and Mary Williams have written a remarkable article today is about the forthcoming appointment of U. Maryland dean Susan Schwab as Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, the forthcoming appointment of Kenneth Leet from Goldman Sachs as Undersecretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance, and the resignation of Peter Fisher from the Domestic Finance job. But how does the story begin? The headline is: High Official Quits Treasury and Woman Is Named No. 2 It would be hard to write a headline that conveyed less information: all we know after reading the headline is that (a) some people are moving in and out of the Treasury, and (b) one of those moving in has a vagina. Wouldn't this be a much better headline? Susan Schwab To Be Treasury No. 2; Leet to Take Fisher's Job It's 59 characters instead of 54, but consider how much more information it carries. It doesn't get better. The first full paragraph of the story is: The Bush administration announced changes in its economic team yesterday, including the appointment of the first woman to be deputy Treasury secretary and the resignation of Peter R. Fisher as under secretary for domestic...

Posted by DeLong at 07:54 AM

July 09, 2003
A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

How terrible it is to lose your mind. Or not to have a mind at all. How true that is. Dennis Perrin mourns the transformation of Christopher Hitchens....

Posted by DeLong at 09:05 PM

Books: Ken MacLeod: The Cassini Division

Ken MacLeod (1998), The Cassini Division (New York: Tor: 0812568583)....

Posted by DeLong at 05:22 PM

July 07, 2003
John Edwards on Vision

Doc Searls picks up presidential candidate John Edwards's Georgetown speech, and his vision of why he is running for president: The Doc Searls Weblog : John Edwards: There's a fundamental difference between his vision and mine. I believe America should value work. He only values wealth. He wants the people who own the most to get more. I want to make sure everybody has the chance to be an owner. For a man who made responsibility the theme of his campaign, this president sure doesn't seem to value it much in office. We’ve lost 3.1 million private sector jobs. Over $3 trillion in stock market value lost. A $5.6 trillion budget surplus gone, and nearly $5 trillion of red ink in its place. Bill Clinton spent 8 years turning around 12 years of his predecessors' deficits. George Bush erased it in two years, and this year will break the all-time record. Yet even with all those zeroes, the true cost of the administration’s approach isn't what they’ve done with our money, it’s what they want to do to our way of life. Their economic vision has one goal: to get rid of taxes on unearned income and shift the tax...

Posted by DeLong at 10:02 AM

Semantic Drift

Over time the meanings of political concepts drifts, as they get redefined by their enemies (and often by their "friends"), and as time and chance happens to us all. When does it reach the point where the concept has too much baggage and too much barnacles attached to be useful any more? ("States' Rights," for example, has for the past seventy years primarily meant and will for the next fifty years primarily mean, "we want to make sure the federal government doesn't keep us from giving Black people the shaft"; it is now useless as a political concept.) Here Ken MacLeod talks about the F-word (feminism) and then the S-word (socialism): The F-Word: The recent report by the Equal Opportunites Commission, showing that people at least in their focus group regarded feminism as man-hating and outmoded, has given rise to lots of discussion. This is a small contribution to it.When I was an ignorant but enthusiastic Trot, back in the 1970s, I did some work in support of the National Abortion Campaign with a friendly radical lesbian feminist, and (as I recall) we got along well. At a party I had a long and serious conversation with her, in which...

Posted by DeLong at 09:54 AM

June 09, 2003
Journalists Are Weird

Joshua Micah Marshall is a smart guy, a nice guy, but he is a journalist. And journalists are weird. Thus Marshall writes of quotes "in dispute" between Paul Wolfowitz and Sam Tanenhaus. Most of us non-journalists would think such a "dispute" would be over whether Wolfowitz actually said these things--whether he believes that Saddam Hussein sponsored the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and believes Saddam may well have played some role in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing as well. Nope. The only dispute seems to be a Pentagon claim that Wolfowitz's views on such issues were off the record. That's not a "disputed" quote. That's an "undisputed" quote. There is a question about whether Tanenhaus's career will flourish if people don't think they can go off the record in interviews with him, but that's a question for Tanenhaus to discover, not a dispute to occupy the rest of us. Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: So here's the story with the disputed quotes from Sam Tanenhaus' article on Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz in Vanity Fair. As noted here a couple days ago, the Tanenhaus article says that Wolfowitz is "confident" that Saddam played some role in the 1993...

Posted by DeLong at 03:17 PM

June 07, 2003
Time to Pound My Head Against the Wall Once Again

The Economist's Lexington correpondent devotes a full page to Hillary Rodham Clinton (with a time out for slams at Sidney Blumenthal for being a "brown-noser" and Paul Krugman for being "shrill"): ... wronged woman... staggering revelations... Clintonia... that bitchy, chaotic house party.... Since September 11th, the United States has had more important things to think about.... Mrs Clinton's past... future... an incredibly potent force... a heroine... a hate-figure... the most likely next Democratic president... "Draft Hillary"... conservative... capacity to elicit frenzied support from her core constituency... money... volunteers... Mrs Clinton's credibility with the left has also allowed her to move further to the centre... she does not have to buy the left's support... self-discipline... Senate campaign in 2000... impressively tank-like... broadening her experience... constituency work... Democratic givers... successful senator from a large and rich state... name recognition... support of many women... embodies the Democratic America that won the popular vote in 2000.... Read the column--it's a long column. Reflect upon several facts. First, almost all of the column is "inside political baseball" of little use to anyone who is not a serious political junkie. Second, "Lexington" doesn't like Hillary Rodham Clinton or Bill Clinton or Paul Krugman or Sid Blumenthal--but...

Posted by DeLong at 10:15 PM

May 19, 2003
A Short Dialogue on Preparation to Be Treasury Secretary

Socrates: Why did Rubin and Summers find being Treasury Secretary so much easier than O'Neill and Snow have? Thrasymachus: Well, Summers watched Rubin closely for a long time, and learned well... Socrates: But that is not a proper answer. Why did Rubin find being Treasury Secretary so much easier than O'Neill and Snow have? Thrasymachus: Consider this. If you are a CEO--as O'Neill and Snow were--you say whatever you think whenever you want. And everyone around you tells you that you are a genius, the next best thing to a God. "Brilliant!" "Why, I wish I'd thought of that sir!" It's the equivalent of being a Romanov Tsar like Nicholas II--and when this treatment is carried out for an extended period of time, it makes you clinically mad, and it makes you completely incompetent to deal with the outside world. By contrast, think of what it is like being Co-Chair of Goldman-Sachs. There are 120 very smart, very ruthless people all around you, all of whom hope to trick you into a mistake so that they can remove you from your job and in the process take all of your money. As a result, you get turned not into Nicholas...

Posted by DeLong at 05:05 PM

If You Can't Stand the Heat...

I know Ross Perot. Ross Perot is not a friend of mine. But you, Senator Voinovich, are no Ross Perot. So it looks like Alan Murray's attempt to build up Senator Voinovich as the public-spirited champion of fiscal responsibility has completely and totally failed. It turned out that Voinovich had to get out of the kitchen really bad and really fast......

Posted by DeLong at 04:38 PM

May 14, 2003
Strange Column by Naomi Klein

A remarkably, remarkably unsophisticated view of political organization and popular mobilization in Argentina. She seems surprised by what has happened in Argentina over the past year and a half, as if she knows nothing about the history of the French Revolution or the Russian Revolution, nothing about the history of nineteenth-century anarchism, nothing about the "autonomists" of Spain before and during the Spanish Civil War, and little of what she could have learned from the history of the American left about the interaction between disciplined ideological parties and mass pickup "popular front" meetings. The stages she observes in Argentina--and thinks have "plenty to teach"--are familiar patterns at least a century old. The takeover of pickup assemblies that claim to represent "the people" by disciplined vanguards with their own ideologies, hierarchical organizations, and ability to dispatch lots of people to outsit all others has been a common pattern since the days of the Jacobin Club: when legitimacy is conferred not by popular election but by the fact of spontaneous participation, those with the ideological and organizational tools organize the largest number of "spontaneous" participants take things over. The withdrawal from action into passivism out of a belief that to form...

Posted by DeLong at 05:17 PM

A Change in Taxonomy

This is a good idea: It's Still The Economy, Stupid: We should not call Bush's fiscal plans a 'tax cut' anymore. It's not. We will have to find the money eventually, whether that's through inflation or increased taxes later on. And meanwhile, local and state taxes go up to address gaping budget deficits on the local level. We should call it what it is: A Debt Increase Plan...

Posted by DeLong at 02:26 PM

May 12, 2003
"Stimulus" Packages

Morgan Stanley's Richard Berner on the potential effectiveness of what is now being called a "stimulus" package: Morgan Stanley: ...For example, the Senate Democrats' plan has the smallest 10-year cost, but its authors claim $125 billion in first-year stimulus.  That's because most of its stimulative features are temporary and most of the revenue offsets only kick in later.  In contrast, the Senate GOP plan (as it stood at week's end) nets to a 10-year cost more than twice the size of the Democratic proposal.  Based on Congressional Joint Tax Committee data, however, we estimate that its first-year stimulus is only about $70 billion, because some of its stimulus comes on more gradually and is permanent......

Posted by DeLong at 11:32 AM

May 07, 2003
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Competent Executive Branch? Part MCIX

Bruce Bartlett (one of the few sane people in Washington, DC, as evidenced by his decision to live in beautiful Great Falls, Virginia) has switched from believing that Job #1 is to reform and reduce the taxation of income from capital in order to boost long-run economic growth to believing that Job #1 is to boost demand and stimulate the economy over the next two years. Unfortunately, he says, as the economic news making the case for immediate stimulus stronger has dribbled in over the past half year, "the White House [which] recognizes that the political and economic landscape has changed... has simply revised its rhetoric. Now, instead of making the correct argument for its dividend plan -- that it will raise productivity, growth and incomes over time -- the White House talks only about jobs, jobs, jobs. The problem is that the dividend plan probably won't create many new jobs and very few of those will come in the short run." The Thomas option -- The Washington Times: May 7, 2003 The Thomas option Bruce Bartlett      By tomorrow , both the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee will have completed mark-up of a major tax...

Posted by DeLong at 09:52 AM

May 06, 2003
A Platonic Dialogue Between a Senior Administration Official and a Sane Republican Economist

A Platonic Dialogue Between a Senior Administration Official [SAO] and a Sane Republican Economist [SRE] SAO: The President's Economic Plan is about jobs! Creating jobs! SRE: But... SAO: Creating jobs. The Council of Economic Advisers has estimated that the President's Economic Plan will create 500,000 jobs by the end of 2003. And... SRE: But... SAO: ... one million additional jobs by the first Tuesday of November in 2004. SRE: Yes, I know that you say "Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!" But at least some people at the Treasury Department say different: the linkages from dividend tax cuts and tax rate cuts to investment spending and consumer spending are just too weak to generate such large effects, and the estimates assume that the Federal Reserve keeps interest rates unchanged as fiscal policy shifts, but it does not... SAO: The Council of Economic Advisers has estimated 1.5 million jobs... SRE: And that the true reason for the President's Economic Plan is that it will boost long-run growth by improving the efficiency of investment by reducing the economic drag produced by the double taxation of capital. SAO: We are a disciplined administration. And when there might be conflict in other administrations, we resolve it. We...

Posted by DeLong at 07:44 PM

Space Wars Inside the Topkapi Palace

The multitasking John Irons covers the exile of the Council of Economic Advisers from Proximity to the Presidential Presence--their move from the Old (Eisenhower) Executive Office Building right next to the White House (and inside its outer security bubble) to 18th & G Streets. This stuff is really important: one of the principal reasons that the Secretary of the Treasury is more important than the Secretary of Commerce is that he is 1 1/2 blocks closer to the White House's Roosevelt Conference Room. One of the reasons that Assistants to the President for National Security have often been more important than Secretaries of State or Defense has been that State is five blocks away and Defense is across the Potomac River. By contrast, Assistants to the President for Economic Policy have rarely been more important than Treasury Secretaries, in large part because the Treasury Secretary can go from his office to anywhere in the White House in two minutes. If I were in Greg Mankiw's shoes, I would demand a reversal--or at least a small personal closet office inside the White House bubble--or I would go back to Harvard. And if this isn't reversed, I guess I am going to...

Posted by DeLong at 03:03 PM

May 04, 2003
The "Outrageous" Miranda Decision

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the piece I just read by Jack Balkin is the oh-by-the-way revelation in the middle of it that Juan Non-Volokh thinks that the Supreme Court's decision in Miranda v. Arizona is "outrageous." It is--Juan Non-Volokh seems to think--appalling that the Supreme Court should make police inform suspects of their rights: You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you. You have the right to talk with a lawyer before being questioned, and to have the lawyer present during the questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you before questioning begins. Much better--or so he seems to imply--to have the pre-Miranda system, in which the well-educated who hung with lawyers knew what the Fifth Amendment meant in terms of what they had to tell the police when, and the rest did not. It is, in my mind, an open question what, exactly, the Fifth Amendment should mean. On the one hand I suspect that our current system of plea-bargains extracts a lot of false confessions (Central Park jogger case anybody?) even with our current procedural hedges of Miranda warnings and other requirements...

Posted by DeLong at 09:26 AM

April 24, 2003
Master of the Senate

Alan Murray explains why a Senate majority leader has no power. Alan Murray: ...Mr. Frist's problem in part is the nature of the job itself. Being Senate majority leader is akin to being grounds-keeper at a cemetery; you have a lot of people under you, but they aren't paying much attention. Republican leaders face a particular dilemma: To get anything done, they must make compromises that anger the party's conservative base. That's exactly what Mr. Frist faced on the budget. He had two Republican senators -- Maine's Olympia Snowe and Ohio's George Voinovich -- whose votes he needed to pass a budget, but who refused to accept a tax cut of more than $350 billion over 10 years. That's less than half the price tag of President Bush's proposal. Mr. Frist had two choices: Leave town without passing a budget -- something his party excoriated Democrats for doing last year -- or let Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley promise the two holdouts that he would keep the tax cut within their bounds. Mr. Frist opted to get something done. That would have infuriated folks at the White House and the House under any circumstances, but the deal was made...

Posted by DeLong at 06:47 AM

April 13, 2003
A Very Strange Budget Resolution

AP reports on a very strange Congressional Budget Resolution. As best as I can figure out, the Budget Resolution (i) keeps proposed tax cuts as large as $550 billion over the next ten years from being filibustered in the Senate, but (ii) is accompanied by promises from First and Grassley to vote against any tax cut greater than $350 billion. Of course, all this begs the question of why they are considering a permanent tax cut at all... washingtonpost.com: Congress Approves $2.27 Trillion Budget for 2004: With lawmakers eager to begin a two-week recess, the Senate passed the budget on a vote that required Vice President Dick Cheney to break a 50-50 tie. The House had approved it a few hours before dawn. The budget language allows for new tax cuts up to $550 billion over the next decade, a figure supported by the House in an effort to win over more senators. However, moderate GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine demanded and received promises from her party's leader that any tax cut bill sent to the White House won't exceed $350 billion. Bush's proposal is for $726 billion, reductions he says are needed to revive the economy. Senate Finance...

Posted by DeLong at 06:07 PM

March 20, 2003
War Costs

The Wall Street Journal's Jackie Calmes reports: Cost of War: WAR COSTS: Bush is mum, but lawmakers see first bill of up to $90 billion. Early estimates suggest supplemental fiscal-2003 spending of $62.5 billion for defense -- mobilization, 30 days of operations and added costs of global antiterrorism efforts. Billions more would go to Middle East allies, reconstruction in Iraq and domestic funds for first-responders, Coast Guard and Transportation Security Administration. Airlines seek aid for expenses of federal security mandates, and relief from security fees and ticket taxes. Chicago-based United relies on House Speaker Hastert of Illinois, visits Senate Leader Frist. House Appropriations Chairman Young chafes that White House isn't more open: Budget director Daniels "is not proving very helpful." Larry Lindsey got fired from the White House last winter in large part because he dominated a news cycle last year with an estimate that war with Iraq would cost $100 billion or so. Think what that means about how this administration operates....

Posted by DeLong at 09:06 PM

On Tribe on Wilentz on Scalia

Now comes the estimable and sharp-witted James Glass before the bar of logic and argument, bringing forward Larry Tribe as a witness to defend Antonin Scalia against my bill of indictment accusing him of being a theocratic intellectual zombie--that is, somebody who belongs in the court of a medieval Pope like Innocent III, and not on the Supreme Court of Thomas Jefferson's and Abraham Lincoln's United States of America. Tribe's witness for Scalia takes the form of a critique of a New York Times commentary by Sean Wilentz, who also attacked Antonin Scalia for being, well, a theocratic intellectual zombie. I confess I am not convinced by Tribe's argument and prefer my own conclusions (surprise! surprise!). Let me try to indicate why: In his critique of Wilentz, Tribe makes four substantive points: It is simply wrong for Wilentz to say that Scalia blames the emergence of democracy for the breakdown of that consensus that held that state power was to be obeyed because it was in some sense special and holy, for Scalia is "[f]ar from holding democracy’s emergence responsible for what he laments as the breakdown of that consensus." It is simply wrong for Wilentz to describe Scalia's desired...

Posted by DeLong at 06:37 PM

March 18, 2003
Is It too Late to Ask to Be Born on Another Planet?

A correspondent complains: I'm not sure I want to live on a planet where Howard Fast can write Spartacus and Freedom Road, and still accept the Stalin Prize. Is it too late to ask for another planet? The answer, unfortunately, is "Yes, if you are already alive it is too late to ask to be born on another planet." But we could try to fix the one we have......

Posted by DeLong at 07:38 AM

March 14, 2003
Covering the White House

Atrios spots something very interesting as the Washington Post editors respond to the problems its reporters have had in covering the Bush Administration by stepping in to cut its reporters off at the knees. Have the Post editors forgotten that they are supposed to help their reporters cover the news, not make their reporters' lives more difficult? Eschaton: The Blame Game Jill Dutt, one of the editors at the Washington Post, writes to Medianews regarding Jonathan Weisman's letter:In case Jonathan Weisman's notes have caused any confusion about The Post's policy on quotations, let me describe it. Reporters are not allowed to change a quote once it's been uttered. Anything appearing within quotation marks and published in The Post must be a verbatim rendering of what a source said. We do allow reporters, on occasion, to conduct background interviews with the understanding that if they want to quote the source, they check the quote. Reporters are supposed to get approval from an editor in advance of making an agreement to read back quotes.While poor Mr. Weisman has to backtrack to try and save his probably alread-severed neck:From JONATHAN WEISMAN, Economics Writer, Washington Post: Subject -- A follow-up. Given the response to...

Posted by DeLong at 09:47 PM

March 11, 2003
The Ottoman Sultan Problem Once Again

The Ottoman Sultan Problem Once Again: A correspondent writes: I don't see how we will escape the Ottoman Sultan problem. It seems very, very hard for Senators or others with meaningful national track records to be elected, excepting Vice-Presidents. So, we will be left with ex-Governors and ex-Veeps. The ex-Governors tend to know little of foreign lands; hence, we end up relying on a lot of learning on the job. As Kissinger famously pointed out, it is hard to build intellectual capital while in office. It takes someone very, very smart--and we are only going to get that once a generation or so. And the selection of Veeps since 1944 has been a downright irresponsible parade of political hacks and freaks. It is interesting that history is so tough on most Presidential decisions, but the Prez's have tended to get free passes on the Veep choice. Agnew? Quayle? These are guys you wouldn't want coaching a children's soccer team. I suspect we will be stuck with the Ottoman Sultan problem and hope that the responsible foreign policy cliques will have the skill and self-confidence to fight off the various scum-sucking cynics, hacks, haters, utopians, and charlatans who cluster and feed...

Posted by DeLong at 08:19 PM

March 08, 2003
James Capozzola for Senate?

The Democratic Party seems to be having a hard time finding a Senate candidate for 2004. James Capozzola volunteers to fill the currently-absent place. The Rittenhouse Review I endorse him. For, as The Hill says: Not a single Democrat[ic politician] in the Keystone State has publicly expressed interest in taking on Specter -- even though he is one of only three Republican senators who face reelection in states that former Vice President Al Gore won in 2000. Moreover, Specter is seeking election in a state that elected Ed Rendell as its governor, giving Democrats control of that key office for the first time in nearly a decade.... Democrats, however, haven't yet capitalized on what is already shaping up as a bitter [Republican] primary battle.... And although Specter is heavily favored to win the GOP nomination, the May primary could drain the popular senator of campaign resources and political capital, making him more vulnerable than heretofore......

Posted by DeLong at 07:45 AM

March 06, 2003
Right-Wing British Financial Newspaper Calls Bush Economic Policy "Lunacy"

Gerard Baker, the Washington correspondent for the Financial Times, calls the Bush Administration's economic policy "lunacy." Note that Gerard Baker is not a partisan Democrat. Gerard Baker is a normal, smart, conservative, keen-eyed financial reporter who is trying to give the largely well-off European readers of the Financial Times some idea of what is going on in economic policy in Washington. The fact that he is reduced to words like "lunacy" and "utterly out of touch" and "engaged in one of those psychological exercises where if you say something patently false enough times you eventually start to believe it" should give anyone who is still inclined to credit Bush Administration economic policy with any competence at all a great deal of pause. FT.com Home Global: ...the more important lesson of all this is how utterly out of touch with economic reality those on the ideological Republican right have become. They now regard the most obvious and widely accepted nostrums of fiscal economics as tantamount to treason. For the past two years, they have been engaged in one of those psychological exercises where if you say something patently false enough times you eventually start to believe it. Deficits do not matter....

Posted by DeLong at 11:59 AM

March 05, 2003
Perhaps... the Sun Rises Every Day...

Perhaps... the sun rises every day... Perhaps... objects fall when dropped... Perhaps... water is wet... Every once in a while you come across somebody advancing--diffidently and tentatively--a point that is completely blinkingly obvious that everyone over the age of five without total ideological blinders has known all the time. Today we have Unqualified Offerings and Jeffrey Tucker advancing the insight that American conservatism is not a reliable friend of human liberty. Of course conservatism is not a reliable friend of human liberty. Conservatism is a combination of four currents: "change is bad," "things were better when my grandfather was a boy," "what our ancestors have handed down to use may be false, but we shouldn't inquire into it because it is useful," and "I've got mine, Jack, and the lower orders need to be more respectful." These are not the soil in which the tree of liberty grows. American conservatism is different in some respects from European conservatism. What our ancestors have handed down to us are liberal doctrines and institutions: Republican government, strong individualism, a belief that rights are prior to the state and prior to society, TJ's time bomb in the "Declaration" declaring human equality, and AL's time...

Posted by DeLong at 08:35 AM

March 04, 2003
No, Marty Feldstein Is Not "Voting" Against Bush...

ABC News's The Note now counts Marty Feldstein as a dissenter from Bush Administration economic policy. This does not seem to me to be true. Marty agrees with the Bush Administration in wanting to see taxes fall as a share of GDP. Marty is thinking more clearly than the Bush Administration in that he is focused--has long been focused--on the necessity for a severe pruning-back of the social-insurance state if reduced tax shares are to be a durable reality. (The Bush Administration wants to leave this as a problem for future Presidents, future Congresses, and future generation.) Where Marty dissents--and this has been the case for at least a year--is in viewing the current situation in which unemployment is above its natural rate and the economy is approaching the edge of deflation as... well, as a sign that stimulus is needed. In short, this was no surprise to me or to anyone else who has been watching Marty's thinking over the past year. Yet it seems newsworthy to The Note, which is one of the very best political newsletters around. Yet another example of how what seems very basic and fundamental to economists somehow turns into an unobservable nuance for...

Posted by DeLong at 01:02 PM

March 01, 2003
What a Waste It Is... Not to Have a Mind

George Will flunks the Turing test in his comments on judicial nominations. As Dan Quayle used to say, "What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is." Steve's No Direction Home Page: George Will, Then and Now. 4/27/93 Lloyd Cutler is a liberal critic of Senate Rule XXII that requires 60 votes to curtail debate by imposing cloture. He is a distinguished Washington lawyer, seasoned by public service (he was President Carter's counsel) that unfortunately did not inoculate him against the temptations of institutional tinkering. The tinkering he favors would facilitate the essence of the liberal agenda - more uninhibited government. For example, a decade ago he recommended various reforms to undermine what he called an "anomaly" and what the Framers considered the essence of the constitutional system - the separation of powers....Cutler's argument for the unconstitutionality of Rule XXII is:"The text of the Constitution plainly implies that each house must take all its decisions by majority vote, except in the five expressly enumerated cases where the text itself requires a two-thirds vote: the Senate's advice and consent to a treaty, the Senate's guilty verdict on...

Posted by DeLong at 02:40 PM

February 26, 2003
The MinuteMan Has (Abbreviated) Thoughts on Al Sharpton

The MinuteMan presents a very abbreviated version of his views on Al Sharpton--"abbreviated" because his hard disk lunched the full version (or maybe the dog ate it: I forget). Just One Minute: So, soundbite - if the Dems deal with Sharpton by attacking and marginalizing him, he will remember in November, and to repay he will stay away. Just let him be one more candidate, encourage him to run as a mainstream anti-war lefty, and things will be fine. Well, if not "fine", then tolerable. Force Al to gain relevance by appealing to the radical elements of his base, and Al will raise issues that the Democrats find hopelessly troublesome and divisive. Do we really want to hear each Democratic candidate take a position on slavery reparations before a national television audience? Actually, I do, but only because not since "Your Show of Shows" will we have seen so much live comedy and tap-dancing on TV. Also, because I have an evil heart... The problem with treating Sharpton as just one more anti-war lefty is that that is not who he is, and legitimating him gives something I find quite scary a potential power base inside the Democratic Party. That...

Posted by DeLong at 07:00 AM

Our Idiot Ottoman Sultan Problem

After the death in the sixteenth century of Suleiman the Lawgiver, the Ottoman Empire went rapidly downhill. One cause was the... peculiar system by which the subsequent Sultans were chosen and trained. It became apparent to ruling Sultans that to allow more than a single one of one's sons to gain experience as a provincial governor or an army commander led to disaster: each son would desperately try to build a faction of clients and soldiers, and each Sultan's death would be followed by a brutal and destructive civil war (if, that is, the sons did not preempt and start the civil war before their father's death. So the sons of the Sultan were kept inside the palace all their life. However, the eldest-son principle being weak, all that did was shift the struggle from outside to inside the palace. Each son (and his mother) would wage a war of intrigue against the others, trying hard to assemble a sufficient coalition to support his accession to the Sultanate when the time came. On the death of one Sultan, all but one of his sons would be executed. Only the one son who had the support of enough clerics, bureaucrats, and--most...

Posted by DeLong at 01:07 AM

February 25, 2003
Thoughts on the Republican Economists' Letter

Thoughts on the Republican Economists' Letter So I downloaded and read the text and signature list of the Republican economists' letter supporting the Bush Administration's budget proposals: We enthusiastically endorse your economic growth and jobs proposal. It is fiscally responsible and it will create more employment, economic growth, and opportunities for all Americans. Moreover, it will improve corporate accountability and strengthen the nation's international competitiveness. I was somewhat disappointed for three reasons: I was moderately disappointed, first, that the letter was so short. If you have an opportunity as a professional economist to gain some media attention, you have a duty to use that opportunity to raise the level of the media debate over economic policy. This letter doesn't. It doesn't tell anyone who reads it why cutting dividend taxes would (if the appropriate adjustments are made to hold the right other things constant) be a good idea. It doesn't tell anyone who reads it why it would improve corporate accountability (a thing that nobody has explained to me to my satisfaction). It doesn't tell anyone who reads it how it would strengthen America's international competitiveness--let along what "international competitiveness" is, or why it is worth strengthening. I was slightly...

Posted by DeLong at 10:50 AM

February 24, 2003
William Watts Gets Snookered

William Watts of CBS Marketwatch gets snookered. He writes: EarthLink - Finance: But as is usually the case when politics and economics meet, there are a number of contradictory answers. Glenn Hubbard, the chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers and an architect of the tax-cut plan, has argued that the deficit's impact is relatively minor, and partly offset by future economic growth that can stem from income-tax cuts. "I think that the effects (on interest rates) of the size of the proposals that the president proposed are very, very modest and they are outweighed" by the potential upside benefits Hubbard told reporters last week. The Economic Report of the President, released earlier this month by the Hubbard-led CEA, laid out a formula that results in a sanguine answer when it comes to the impact of debt on interest rates. Read it. According to the CEA's calculations, each dollar of debt crowds out about 60 cents of capital. The other 40 cents is offset by larger capital inflows from abroad. "A conservative rule of thumb based on this relationship is that interest rates rise by about 3 basis points for every additional $200 billion in government debt," the report...

Posted by DeLong at 06:18 PM

Why Are We Governed by These Clowns?

Why Are We Governed by These Clowns? Why is not lying never considered--even as a hypothetical option? Here is some evidence that whoever is preparing Bush's economic talking points and speeches either has no contact with any of the professional forecasters at the Council of Economic Advisers, the Office of Management and Budget, or the National Economic Council, or simply does not care that the President not tell pointless lies: Feb. 24, 2003 | Faked forecast: Yesterday the Long Island (and Queens) daily [Newsday]'s economics correspondent James Toedtman broke the kind of important story that requires only a single telephone call to expose lying in the White House. Last Thursday, the president claimed that the "nation's top economists forecast substantial economic growth" if Congress would only pass his latest tax cut. After scores of Nobel economists warned that said tax cut is economically useless as well as unfair, Bush's desire to make such a claim is understandable. Unfortunately it is also entirely false. The "top economists" to whom Bush... referred were the 53 highly-respected respondents to a monthly newsletter known as Blue Chip Economic Forecast. They had allegedly agreed that the U.S. economy would grow 3.3 percent in 2003 if...

Posted by DeLong at 06:04 PM

February 23, 2003

These days we see strange and bizarre signs in the media of a bitter, desperate, and hidden struggle over the making of Bush Administration economic policy. Fred Barnes, writing in The International Economy, says that Karl Rove and Dick Cheney have been the key players in the Administration's "decision to change direction," to reject the belief that "no further stimulus was needed," and to "change tack and... propose a package of tax cuts to assure a growing economy, notably in 2004." By contrast, U.S. Treasury staff "point out privately" while talking to the G-7 Group that the "package was never about stimulus..." But the G-7 Group's Treasury sources' boss, newly-hatched Treasury Secretary John Snow, tells journalists and other industrial country finance ministers that the tax cut package is intended to boost short-term global growth and is especially needed "in view of the uncertainties over Iraq." Meanwhile, Cato Institute head William Niskanen claims that Alan Greenspan's "statements [about the inadvisability of widening the deficit] indicate he is leaving the job"--that Greenspan has decided that spreading his view of the long-run folly of Bush Administration fiscal policy is more important than being nominated for another term as Federal Reserve Chairman, and that...

Posted by DeLong at 08:28 PM

February 21, 2003
The Bush Budget Once Again

Michael Kinsley bangs his head against the wall on the Bush budget, saying all the normal and appropriate things. As far as I can see, Bush Administration fiscal policy has no external private supporters (except possibly Kevin Hassett?) at all--at least, not one person I have talked to in private who understands the federal budget has told me that they think that the package as a whole (including future extra military expenditures, AMT relief, and all the other things in the policies but not in the OMB numbers) is good for the country. If anybody does think this is good policy, please drop me a note explaining why. The George W. Diet - Lose unsightly pounds by eating like a pig. By Michael Kinsley: Suppose you had a friend who was grossly overweight for years but lately had been looking very trim. Suddenly, though, he puts on 30 or 40 pounds and is waddling around like his old porcine self. He explains that he's found a marvelous new diet: "You eat like a pig and stop exercising until you get so fat that you just have to lose weight." Would you say that your friend is kidding himself?And if your friend...

Posted by DeLong at 01:41 PM

February 17, 2003
A Mirror of Wildernesses

How likely is it that the--weak--intelligence information that the Bush Administration thinks necessitates a conquest of Iraq is in fact correct? Jim Henley has some views: Jim Henley, Unqualified Offerings: A key piece of the information leading to recent terror alerts was fabricated, according to two senior law enforcement officials in Washington and New York. The officials said that a claim made by a captured al Qaeda member that Washington, New York or Florida would be hit by a "dirty bomb" sometime this week had proven to be a product of his imagination. Here comes the good part: It was only after the threat level was elevated to orange -- meaning high -- last week, that the informant was subjected to a polygraph test by the FBI, officials told ABCNEWS. "This person did not pass," said Cannistraro. Does that mean we can take the duct tape back if we kept the receipt? Not necessarily: Despite the fabricated report, there are no plans to change the threat level. Officials said other intelligence has been validated and that the high level of precautions is fully warranted. Still, there's a lesson here: It's not the first time a captured al Qaeda operative...

Posted by DeLong at 07:55 AM

February 14, 2003
The Marquis de Lafayette

Some people in the United States have too short a memory. Without Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roche Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834), his example, and the decision he spurred France to to intervene in the American Revolution on the side of the colonists, this nation would not stand here now. There is a statue of Yves in the central square of what passes for Lafayette, California's downtown. Every time I pass it, I think of the debt for our very existence as a nation that we owe to the Marquis and to France--a debt that we can never repay, but only honor. He is buried in American soil: he brought some back from the United States to France, and it was used for his gravesite....

Posted by DeLong at 04:37 PM

February 13, 2003
Hal Varian Sees Inflation in Our Future

Hal Varian (whom I rarely see on the Berkeley campus, even though his office is only one building over) offers his prescriptions for what should be done in the short run, the medium run, and the long run as far as U.S. fiscal policy is concerned. Most interesting, however, is his forecast that feckless politicians combined with the structural features of American politics are likely to push us toward much higher inflation--once the president has obtained "a pliable Federal Reserve Board" which "can probably be arranged." Deficits and Political Pain: ...let me offer my own prescriptions for the short, medium and long term. Though there is a good chance that the economy will be significantly stronger this year, it wouldn't hurt to have some modest short-run fiscal stimulus. Consumers have kept on spending; the real budget shortfall is coming from business spending and state government cutbacks. A sensible stimulus package would involve a temporary investment subsidy, like accelerated depreciation or even an old-fashioned investment tax credit, along with direct grants to the states. State tax increases and budget cuts could well exert a significant fiscal drag on the economy in the next year, so some attempt to moderate their impact...

Posted by DeLong at 11:02 AM

February 12, 2003
Stan Collender on Fiscal Policy

Stan Collender writes that the 2004 Budget's summary tables--especially Table S-3--"contradicts virtually every major claim the [Bush] administration is making about what it is proposing." Budget Battles (02/11/2003): The Secrets Of S-3 By Stan Collender NationalJournal.com Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2003 Summary Table 3, or S-3, is one of the most standard -- and basic -- tables in President Bush's budget. And it contradicts virtually every major claim the administration is making about what it is proposing. (Click here for a PDF of S-3.) OMB's own projections show that by 2006, the annual increase for interest payments on the federal debt will be larger than the increase in defense spending. S-3 starts with the baseline -- that is, the White House's estimate of the surplus or deficit if there are no changes in what the federal government is doing. Budget aficionados often say that the baseline shows what will happen if the federal government is on automatic pilot. The Office of Management and Budget-prepared baseline shows that the deficit will decline precipitously without the changes in tax and spending policies the White House is proposing. In fact, the baseline shows that the budget will be in surplus starting in 2006 and...

Posted by DeLong at 07:25 PM

February 11, 2003
When Are Deficits Supposed to Start to Suppress Spending?

Jacob Levy of the V Conspiracy asks an obvious question. If (as Mickey Kaus and others maintain) running a large federal deficit is good because it restrains spending, how come spending growth is not restrained now? We have the deficit, after all--plus the prospect of national bankruptcy a generation hence to concentrate our minds. Missing from this NYT piece about how conservatives stopped worrying and learned to love deficits: any mention of when this effect of deficits restraining spending is scheduled to kick in. The federal budget is in deficit already, boys and girls... [The Volokh Conspiracy]...

Posted by DeLong at 09:52 PM

This White House Is Very Strange Indeed

This White House is very strange indeed. Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard interviews administration officials, and the picture they paint of how economic policy works seems to have no contact with reality: The Four Horsemen of Bush Economic Policy | From the Winter 2003 issue of The International Economy | by Fred Barnes | 01/20/2003 ...Another big name with diminished influence is Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve chairman. Greenspan was close to O'Neill. The firing of O'Neill was "a shot across the bow" of Greenspan, an administration official says. At the White House, there's a feeling the Fed has fallen behind the economic curve. This is bad news for Greenspan, hardly a friend of the Bush family after his tight money policy helped doom the re-election chances of President Bush senior in 1992. White House aides can recite the date--June 2004--without hesitation. That's the deadline for the chairman's reappointment. For Greenspan, the message in the O'Neill canning is that the same awaits him should he jeopardize Bush's re-election prospects by raising interest rates... You fire a Treasury Secretary to send an oblique message to a Federal Reserve Chair that his reappointment is in jeopardy should he not "behave"? Isn't...

Posted by DeLong at 09:38 PM

Not Serious on Freeing-Up Trade

WASHINGTON, FEB 10--The Bush Administration's first act in its Free Trade Agreement of the Americas negotiations is to take all discussion of agricultural subsidies off the table. This is not good. To say you won't even discuss what is the major hoped-for objective of the other partners in the negotiation is a very bad negotiating strategy--or is a very bad negotiating strategy if you want an agreement. Bob Zoellick has got to know better. As the first stage in negotiations to expand free trade throughout the Western Hemisphere, the Bush administration is offering to lift all tariffs on textiles and apparel within five years. The proposal will be presented on Tuesday by Robert B. Zoellick, the United States trade representative, who prepared the offer to cover duties on everything from beef to lamps while making special concessions for the poorest nations, a senior trade official said. The goal, Mr. Zoellick said, is the eventual elimination of duties on goods and services from throughout North and South America. But the administration will refuse to discuss reducing America's multibillion-dollar agricultural subsidies in the negotiations because they are not tariffs, the senior official said....

Posted by DeLong at 04:32 PM

Let's Get Snarky!

Matthew Yglesias wins the "let's get snarky!" prize for the first quarter of 2003: 2-10-03: Tom Tomorrow goes into outrage overload. 7-24-00: Tom Tomorrow explains that there's no difference between the two parties. I for one am really glad that folks had a third option that fateful November. The dive was not too difficult--a certain fish-barrel-gun element. But the technical excellence is unsurpassable. Here are the cartoons: Now: Then:...

Posted by DeLong at 03:53 PM

What Greenspan Did Say

He called for reestablishment of something like the Budget Enforcement Act--"I am concerned that, should the enforcement mechanisms governing the budget process not be restored, the resulting lack of clear direction and constructive goals would allow the inbuilt political bias in favor of growing budget deficits to again become entrenched..." He refused to support the reduction of taxes on dividends unless other taxes were raised to make the net effect budget neutral--"the Fed chairman said he continues to support elimination of double taxation on dividends... only if other revenue can be found so as not to raise the budget deficit." NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan warned Tuesday that "geopolitical tensions" have added to the uncertainties dogging the U.S. economy, making a recovery difficult, and called for more discipline to control the growing U.S. federal budget deficit. In response to questions from senators, the Fed chairman said he continues to support elimination of double taxation on dividends, but only if other revenue can be found so as not to raise the budget deficit. Greenspan, in prepared remarks for his testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, said uncertainties about a possible war with Iraq were "creating formidable barriers...

Posted by DeLong at 03:34 PM

Andrew Sullivan Admits Paul Krugman Was Right All Along

If Paul Krugman had written this, I would have said that it is a little harsh and over-the-top. But it's from Andrew Sullivan, who has finally woken up to the fact that Paul Krugman has been right all the time in his harsh judgments of Bush Administration economic policy: www.AndrewSullivan.com - Daily Dish: ...BUSH'S ACHILLES HEEL: It's the economy, smarty-pants... the explosive rate of current government spending... the president's utter insouciance about how to pay for it... his latest budget removes any [excuse for giving him the benefit of the doubt]... worse than Reagan... ratcheting up discretionary spending... no signs whatever of adjusting to meet the hole he and the Republican Congress are putting in the national debt... illiterate flimflam.... But as the tables in the budget also showed, the tax cuts have also contributed significantly to the deficit - and they've barely taken effect yet... staggered that the budget does not contain any mention of the looming war. I guess you could make a semantic point about its not being inevitable - but not even as a possible contingency? Is that how an ordinary citizen plans his own budget?... an awful legacy in the making. In the first three...

Posted by DeLong at 03:14 PM

September 12, 2002
Jeffrey Frankel on U.S. Economic Policy

Jeffrey Frankel asks a hard question: why, for the past two decades, have the economic policies pursued by Republican administrations been so lousy? Over the past two decades, he points out, Republican administrations have been more protectionist, less eager to promote competition, and fiscally irresponsible. Democratic administrations have been more favorable toward free trade, more eager to let competitive markets work, and strongly oriented toward budget surpluses. What's going on? Frankel's answer appears to be that Republican presidents are--don't laugh--drawn from what John Stuart Mill used to call the stupid party. They simply do not understand that bad economic policies are produced not because of the moral failings of politicians and bureaucrats, but because each interest group believes that it deserves a special favor from the government. Resisting such claims from your political supporters requires " stamina, knowledge, ability to absorb and synthesise facts, analysis, ability to communicate, and willingness to trade off issues when constraints make it appropriate, while taking unpopular stands when required." And these qualities George W. Bush's administration seems to lack, badly. FT.com / World: ...Governing is far from easy. Intelligent economic decision-making requires painstaking work: gathering detailed information, making logical analysis of trade-offs, and confronting...

Posted by DeLong at 10:03 PM

September 03, 2002
More From Civilization: Democracy Is Way Too Hard!

"Dad?" "Yes?" "Democracy is way too hard!" "Yeah! Democracy is way too hard!" It is the twelve-year-old and the nine-year-old, speaking in chorus from the back seat. "In democracy, when you move one military unit out of its home city two people become unhappy," says the nine-year-old. "And if you don't spend a complete and total fortune on entertainment and luxuries, your people riot," says twelve-year-old. "It's impossible to wage an aggressive campaign of conquest," says the nine-year-old. "They force you to make peace prematurely." "But aren't your people much more productive? Aren't people richer? isn't scientific progress faster? Isn't total production much, much higher?" I ask. "Yes. But what good is that if I want to conquer the world?" asks the nine-year-old. "Remember. Civilization is not just a war game. It's a peace game too. You can win by creating a great and peaceful civilization," I say. "Not if another civilization on earth happens to be led by Genghis Khan and possesses nuclear weapons," says the twelve-year-old. "You're looking at it from the wrong perspective," I say, changing the subject, hoping to distract my children from the moral question--unsuitable for Berkeley--of whether it is possible for a preemptive war...

Posted by DeLong at 06:15 PM

August 31, 2002
What the Founders Envisioned

Dan Kohn says something very smart about the falsity of the Bush administration's claims about "enemy combatants": Dan Kohn's Blog: ...The thing I don't understand about conservatives' claim that "enemy combatants" like Jose Padilla weren't envisioned by the framers is how obviously the text of the constitution contradicts them.... To quote Article III, Section 3: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court. The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted. Why did the framers so carefully spell out what was required for a treason conviction and that it couldn't be lasting on the family (corruption of blood)? Because they were responding to the numerous abuses that had occurred in England of unfairly accusing and prosecuting political enemies, under the rubric of treason, while denying the accused the rights of due process. I have little doubt...

Posted by DeLong at 03:45 PM

August 30, 2002
Paul Krugman on the Fiscal Outlook

Back in the early 1990s there were a bunch of us who believed that reducing the deficit--returning American fiscal policy to sanity--would lead to a jump in confidence in America's long-run future, to an increase in investment in America, to a high productivity-growth recovery, and to rapid increases in Americans' incomes. We turned out to be right: economic historians will long argue to what degree the 1990s boom was the result of changes in fiscal policy and to what degree it was the result of other factors, for the magnitude of the productivity boom was far greater than we had hoped for, even in our wildest dreams. Thus it is very disappointing to see how quickly what I regard as our flagship accomplishment is being reversed by the Bush administration and the current congress. Here Paul Krugman sums up the story so far: Just Paul Krugman: Trust Us: The story so far: Summer 2000: Candidate George W. Bush assures voters that his tax cut is affordable. He illustrates his point with four $1 bills. One bill, he says, represents the tax cut; one represents new programs, such as prescription drug coverage; the other two are funds set aside to pay...

Posted by DeLong at 12:51 PM

August 29, 2002
Bush to Economists: Don't Worry, We'll Make Sure Our Proposals Don't Pass

Economists have been worried that the Bush Administration will monkey with the tax code in destructive ways in an attempt to provide "investor protection" to show that it is "doing something" for the victims of the NASDAQ crash. Now the Bush Administration is telling critical economists not to worry. Whether their proposals are good tax policy or not doesn't matter, for the administration has no intention of actually passing any laws to change the tax code. They just want the investor class to think that something will be done if the Republicans acquire substantial electoral majorities in November. washingtonpost.com: Investor Tax Cut Push Becomes Campaign Tactic: In an Aug. 21 White House meeting with more than a half-dozen economists, Lawrence B. Lindsey, Bush's chief economic adviser, said the administration is committed to moving forward with tax cuts to boost the stock market and soothe investors' pain, several participants said. The package almost certainly will include a provision to increase the amount of stock market losses that can be deducted from income taxes each year, said congressional aides familiar with the negotiations. Also under consideration are reducing the tax rates on capital gains and stock dividends; raising the limit for contributions...

Posted by DeLong at 01:51 PM

August 22, 2002
The Greening of the Republicans

From Bob Somerby at the Daily Howler: Some say the press corps is just like pro wrestling. For us, another great act comes to mind: ...When the Bush Admin signed on to fuel cells this year, everyone knew not to notice the irony. Everyone except the "Inside Washington" column in National Journal: NATIONAL JOURNAL (1/12/02): But Why Wasn't Al at the Announcement? Well, you know what they say about consistency being the hobgoblin of little minds. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham went to his old stomping grounds in Detroit this week to tout a new government partnership with the auto industry. Their goal--to replace the internal combustion engine with motors powered by cleaner, more efficient hydrogen-based fuel cells. Sound familiar? You may recall that Abraham, in his unsuccessful bid to be re-elected to the Senate from Michigan in 2000, loved to mock then-Vice President Al Gore for supporting the elimination of the internal combustion engine. He and his current boss, President Bush, heaped derision on Gore for that and other recommendations to clean up the environment in Gore's book Earth in the Balance. At the GOP convention in 2000, during the delegate roll call, Abraham even made sure to note that...

Posted by DeLong at 01:14 PM

August 20, 2002
Krugman on Bush "Populism"

For the clippings file... The Real Thing August 20, 2002 The Real Thing By PAUL KRUGMAN on't tell, maybe they won't ask. That was the message of a July memo from an official at the Department of Veterans Affairs, posted by Joshua Marshall at talkingpointsmemo.com. Citing "conservative OMB budget guidance" for spending on veterans' health care, the memo instructed subordinates to "ensure that no marketing activities to enroll new veterans occur within your networks." Veterans are entitled to medical care; but the administration hopes that some of them don't know that, and that it can save money by leaving them ignorant. It's not the sort of thing you'd expect from an administration that wraps itself so tightly in the flag — not, that is, unless you've been paying attention. For stories like this are popping up more and more often. Take George W. Bush's decision last week to demonstrate his resolve by blocking $5.1 billion in homeland security spending. This turned out to be a major gaffe, because the rejected bill allocated money both to improve veterans' health care and to provide firefighters with new equipment, including communication systems that could have saved lives on Sept. 11. Recalling those scenes...

Posted by DeLong at 11:31 AM

August 16, 2002
No Comment Department

Why, why, why are we governed by people with the brains of three year olds? Through the Looking Glass: An article in today's New York Times describes Republican opposition against Dubya's headlong rush towards war with Iraq. To which Republican hawk Richard Perle responds: "The failure to take on Saddam after what the president said would produce such a collapse in confidence in the president that it would set back the war on terrorism." This is a marvelous turn of logic. Some might say that if we need bad policy to back up Dubya's ill-considered, bellicose rhetoric, that would be a sign that the wrong guy is in the Oval Office. But to Perle, it's failure to follow up the ill-considered, bellicose rhetoric --- no matter what the consequences --- that makes for bad policy......

Posted by DeLong at 03:00 PM

Look What Crawled Out From Under the Rock...

From Atrios. The Bush clan continues to surprise: Eschaton: Look who Jeb has chosen to run Florida's child welfare agency: "TALLAHASSEE - The man named Thursday by Gov. Jeb Bush to head Florida's notoriously inept child welfare agency.... In a 1989 essay entitled The Christian World View of the Family, Regier and co-author George Rekers railed against abortion and gay couples forming families, and emphasized that husbands have 'final say in any family dispute.'... The essay also said Christians should not marry non-Christians, that divorce is acceptable only when there is adultery or desertion and that wives should view working outside the home as 'bondage.' The 'radical feminist movement,' the essay adds, 'has damaged the morale of many women and convinced men to relinquish their biblical authority in the home.'...

Posted by DeLong at 09:59 AM

August 14, 2002
Cats and Dogs Almost Living Together

Raining frogs, plagues of locusts, cats and dogs living together! I agree with the Wall Street Journal editorial page: WSJ.com - Major Business News: ...we'd like to offer one post-Waco suggestion. To wit, that President Bush convene a more workable forum and think seriously about economic policy. We'd suggest he lock himself in a room with Larry Lindsey from the White House, Glenn Hubbard from the Council of Economic Advisers and John Taylor from the Treasury. Then he could reach out to Stanford University to add Michael Boskin... That's a good idea. An economic policy made by those people would be much much better than our current made-by-White-House-Communications policy. On second thought, I don't agree with the WSJ. They add to that list: John Cogan and Martin Anderson. Anderson is the Reagan hack who misrepresented what the sources of the 1980s deficit were. John Cogan spent the late 1980s and early 1990s arguing that budget deficits were caused by the institutional structure of Congressional decision making. To the best of my knowledge, he has never found the time to acknowledge that the end of the deficit in the 1990s was in striking contradiction to all his writings. For the rapid...

Posted by DeLong at 11:17 AM

August 02, 2002
The Republican Party Badly Needs a Better Class of Candidates

The Republican Party badly needs a better class of candidates. One example: California gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon: Simon Doesn't Remember $1.2-Million Loss Simon, who founded William E. Simon & Sons in 1988 with his brother Peter and their father, the former U.S. Treasury secretary, is a co-chairman of the committee that approves the firm's investments. But he testified that he did not recall attending any committee meeting on Pacific Coin. Simon, whose average annual income is $3.3 million, also said he recalled virtually nothing about Coinable Simon LLC, the company set up by the Simon group to invest in Pacific Coin. Yet on the federal income tax returns that Simon signed for 1999 and 2000, he listed his $1.2-million loss in Coinable Simon as one of his largest tax deductions. Even when he was shown a 10-page memo on the pay phone deal covered with his own handwriting in the margins (including "wow!" "please explain" and "how about we make some money first"), Simon testified that he could not recall any conversations about the memo's contents. This week, the jury found that the Simon group hid from Hindelang that it planned to borrow large sums of money to expand...

Posted by DeLong at 08:12 AM

July 26, 2002
Another Reason I'm Glad I'm Not a Republican

God knows there are enough things done by politicians and activists on the Democratic side of the line that make me wince and cower. But things like this remind me of why I am so very very glad that I am not a Republican... http://online.wsj.com/article_print/0,,SB1027630749784294000,00.html">WSJ.com - Washington Wire Republicans talk of expanding tax breaks for stock-market losses. But with working-class voters hurting, "We've got to be careful not to look like we're bailing out investors," cautions GOP Sen. Grassley......

Posted by DeLong at 08:14 AM

July 22, 2002
The Economist Joins the Chorus: Options Make Executives Long Volatility

Quite a while ago my brother Chris pointed out to me that stock options do not align the interests of executives with those of shareholders. Options, he said, make the top executives want as much volatility in the company's stock price as possible. Now this point is becoming the conventional wisdom. I think this is healthy. Economist.com ...The theory is that the huge amounts of stock options dished out to executives in the 1990s encouraged them to behave badly. Unlike stock itself, a stock option has no downside: the owner might gain a lot of money if his company's share price rises, but he loses only the cost of the option if the share price falls (and nothing at all if the option is given to him). That might have encouraged excessive risk-taking at the top--a willingness, as Ira Kay of Watson Wyatt, a pay consultancy, puts it, to "roll the dice". Combined with the freedom to sell the company's stock once the option is exercised, stock options might also have encouraged short-term business strategies, or even fraud. By fiddling with their accounts, company bosses could hope to drive up the share price, cash in their options, and set sail...

Posted by DeLong at 10:35 AM

Business Week's Washington Watch

BusinessWeek Online:Curiouser and Curiouser in Washington ...Business lobbyists are watching in disbelief as their normal means of persuasion -- charm, intimidation, campaign cash, and friends in very high places -- seem incapable of slowing down the corporate-reform bandwagon on Capitol Hill. And President Bush is clearly struggling to contain the political fallout -- for the first time in his 18-month-old Presidency. "There are certain events that are beyond your control," one Bush assistant sighed. "When that happens, you do the best with the hand you've been dealt." How surreal are things in Washington for the usually confident corporate lobbyists? When Coca-Cola CEO Douglas Daft announced on July 14 that his company would count stock options as an expense, one disbelieving business lobbyist privately told BusinessWeek that this was a "freewheeling" CEO and that Daft was, well, certainly "not well briefed." FAILED SABOTAGE. When business lobbyists start arguing that CEOs are talking out of school, we are in a Lewis Carroll world. But it's a difficult time to be part of the K Street crowd. After the Senate passed a strict new accounting-reform bill on July 15, the corporate lobbying industry and other normally influential forces went to work trying...

Posted by DeLong at 08:52 AM

July 20, 2002
Joshua Micah Marshall Says Go Read Chris Caldwell

Joshua Micah Marshall says go read Chris Caldwell's New York Press column, and then go read it again... Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall I didn't want to do any posts this weekend. But this article by Chris Caldwell in the New York Press merits an exception. It's simply devastating and the most apt statement of the White House's predicament I've yet read. Every word of it practically is worth reading and reading again. There's always an element of unmerited, guilty pleasure you feel when you hear someone on the other side making your side's case for you. But it's equally true that sometimes a political point can only be made clearly by someone who has to say it with an element of regret, whose words are free of the dross of wishful-thinking and mindless overstatement......

Posted by DeLong at 10:04 PM

July 19, 2002
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page Comes Out Against Growth

There has long been speculation about whether the replacement of Robert Bartley by Paul Gigot as chief of the Wall Street Journal's editorial page would bring it back from Gamma Quadrant to planet earth. Now we know the answer. The answer is, "No." The Wall Street Journal's editorial page wishes that the Federal Reserve had used monetary policy to choke the economy so that interest rates would have been higher, growth slower, and employment lower in the late 1990s. WSJ.com - Parson Greenspan ...Translation: We had a bubble, and amid the euphoria ethical standards slipped. Serious people can debate just what a bubble is, but if there was one, then who created it? One suspect would have to be the Federal Reserve itself, for feeding the economy too much liquidity for too long......

Posted by DeLong at 01:53 PM

July 18, 2002
We Jail People for This?

In response to: "MIAMI, July 17 -- Noelle Bush, the 24-year-old daughter of Gov. Jeb. Bush, was sent to Orange County jail in Orlando this afternoon after failing to meet conditions of a court-ordered rehabilitation plan stemming from her drug arrest in January." Doug Henwood writes: "Gosh, she's got a Xanax jones. For this she needs to go to jail? How many millions of Americans are on Prozac? What a wacko place this is." Doug...

Posted by DeLong at 12:23 PM

July 15, 2002
Whoa! That Antonin Scalia Is One Mega Scary Unrighteous Dude, Man!

Every once in a while I run across something that nobody seems concerned about but that scares the **** out of me, because it is something very very wrong with the world. Today's example is the political theology of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. In a speech last May--"God's Justice and Ours"--published in First Things, Scalia--approvingly--quotes St. Paul on the Principate, the form of government of the Roman Empire in its first two centuries: "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil....

Posted by DeLong at 06:58 PM

July 08, 2002
So Optimistic I Think the Glass Is Half-Full--Even When There's No Glass at All!

The tagline of Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden's website--"Work like you were living in the early days of a better nation."--has always struck me as somewhat awry. We are living in the early days of a better nation....

Posted by DeLong at 01:04 PM

July 07, 2002
Before Paul Krugman Leaves for His Vacation...

Before Paul Krugman leaves for his vacation, he takes one more shot at George W. Bush. Between the two options Krugman gives us--Bush knew about and benefited from Harken's accounting frauds, and Bush was just a very negligent and disconnected director--I think the second is by far the most probable. Succeeding in Business ...the ploy works as follows: corporate insiders create a front organization that seems independent but is really under their control. This front buys some of the firm's assets at unrealistically high prices, creating a phantom profit that inflates the stock price, allowing the executives to cash in their stock. That's exactly what happened at Harken. A group of insiders, using money borrowed from Harken itself, paid an exorbitant price for a Harken subsidiary, Aloha Petroleum. That created a $10 million phantom profit, which hid three-quarters of the company's losses in 1989. White House aides have played down the significance of this maneuver, saying $10 million isn't much, compared with recent scandals. Indeed, it's a small fraction of the apparent profits Halliburton created through a sudden change in accounting procedures during Dick Cheney's tenure as chief executive. But for Harken's stock price -- and hence for Mr. Bush's...

Posted by DeLong at 03:36 PM

July 04, 2002
An Historical Document

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America: When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that...

Posted by DeLong at 08:00 PM

July 03, 2002
Senator John Edwards

Well, he's not an unknown southern governor--and it has been thirty years since the a majority of the voters chose... let me be more precise: since a majority of the presidential electoral college voted for someone who was not (a) an incumbent, (b) a sitting vice president, or (c) a largely unknown southern governor or ex-governor. But he is the next best thing: he's a largely unknown southern senator. And he's thus the Democrats' best hope for getting the most votes in the election... ahem, getting a majority of the electoral college to vote for a Democrat come November of 2004. Meet Senator John Edwards, D-NC. John Edwards's New American Optimists...

Posted by DeLong at 04:23 PM

Bush as a Corporate Director

Byron York, writing in National Review, claims that George W. Bush has no legal vulnerabilities arising from his dumping Harken stock while he was a director and while there was bad undisclosed financial news about Harken hanging. I think he's right about legal liability: Bush's claim that he did not know the bad news is sufficiently plausible to shield any court from deciding beyond a reasonable doubt that he engaged in criminal insider training. But I think he's wrong on the political side: for Bush to be so unaware of Harken's current status to think that he was, as Karen Hughes claimed, "selling into good news" when he was not only a director but also a member of Harken's audit committee demonstrates an astonishing degree of disconnection and disinterest in the company, and in his fiduciary responsibilities to its shareholders. Byron York on Bush & Democrats on National Review Online All the evidence available at the time -- and all that is available now -- suggested that Bush did not, as Krugman implies, engage in insider trading or other wrongdoing. This is what I wrote about the transaction in the June 1999 issue of The American Spectator: [Bush's] largest single...

Posted by DeLong at 10:01 AM

June 28, 2002
If We're So Smart, Why Don't We Have a Majority?

OK. Granted that the House Republicans are less-than-competent at running a legislative railroad, and that their attempted parliamentary manoeuvres do look a lot like Wile E. Coyote's Acme-equipped attempts to catch the Roadrunner... But if we're so smart, why do they have the majority of House seats? House Republicans and the Wile E. Coyote Syndrome (printable version) There's something about House Republicans that is reminiscent of Wile E. Coyote, the famous cartoon predator who employs ever-more-complicated and invariably counterproductive strategies in his efforts to snare the Roadrunner. Just as Wile E. exhibits a fatal fondness for elaborate plans involving anvils, rocket-powered backpacks and giant rubber bands, the House GOP repeatedly chooses too-clever-by-half schemes like government shutdowns, threats to default on the public debt, and ham-handed partisan tactics to get its way. Inevitably, these end in disaster, but like Wile E. Coyote, House Republicans never seem to learn......

Posted by DeLong at 08:22 PM

June 19, 2002
More Money For Issue Research and Advocacy on the Left

MORE MONEY FOR LEFT-WING ISSUE RESEARCH AND ADVOCACY. This sounds like good news to me. It's been a long time since I've heard anyone claim that left-wing think-tanks in Washington are overfunded: Mr. Kirsch has committed $1 million a year to launch the Washington, D.C., political advocacy group, and claims to have lined up other donors willing to put up an additional $10 million or more. He says the organization will promote positions roughly opposite those of conservatives such as Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, and House Majority Whip Tom DeLay. "We'll fill the vacuum created by the perception that there already is a vast left-wing conspiracy," says Mr. Kirsch...

Posted by DeLong at 03:37 PM

June 13, 2002
How Economists Think of Lawyers: The Way Cats Think of Small Birds

So I open my email inbox Thursday afternoon to discover that Glenn Reynolds, Tom Maguire, and company have elevated me to the high and mighty rank of Democratic Party Hack. Alas! The real ideological partisans scorn me: I have too great a tendency to think about what I should say and then say what I think, rather than to simply jerk my knee and line up in my assigned place on some ideology- or patronage-based team. My take on why I have been elevated to this rank? I think that Reynolds and company want very badly to say something critical about New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Unfortunately for them, Krugman's recent column has nothing to take exception to: who denies that, when Bill Clinton lined up against Gephardt and Bonior and on the same side as Gingrich on issues of international economic policy, he did so not out of political calculation but because he really thought it was the right thing to do? So since they can't argue substance, they decide to try to argue procedure. I can imagine what they thought: "Paul Krugman quotes Brad DeLong! And he doesn't say that DeLong was Deputy Assistant Secretary of the...

Posted by DeLong at 05:53 PM

Being President Is a Really Hard Job

With the admittedly huge exception of the Rubin-Tyson-Sperling National Economic Council, the Clinton administration failed to find a way to organize itself so that the short-run and long-run business of the government could be carried out in a thoughtful and far-sighted manner, as opposed to lurching from crisis to crisis, with policy becoming a panicked knee-jerk response to the disaster-of-the-week. The Bush-the-second administration appears to be doing no better--and possibly worse. Here the Economist's "Lexington" piles on: Economist.com Lexington: The CEO presidency Jun 13th 2002 From The Economist print edition George Bush's Clintonian drift into crisis-management REMEMBER the CEO presidency? Remember all the talk about how America's first president with an MBA would set broad strategic goals while his loyal and leak-free board of seasoned businesspeople would decide how to implement them? And remember all the sneering comparisons with the chaotically unprofessional Clinton administration? Well, the chaos is back. An administration that was supposed to run as smoothly as clockwork has recently been clattering from crisis to crisis, with the FBI and CIA waging a war of leaks against each other in the press, with officials issuing endless warnings of imminent terrorist attacks, and amid a general sense that things...

Posted by DeLong at 10:30 AM

June 11, 2002
What Presidents Do

Gee. When Clinton said he'd read something, he'd read it. When Carter said he'd read something, he'd read it. When Nixon said he'd read something, he'd read it... Guardian Unlimited | World Latest | Fleischer: Bush Didn't Read Report Fleischer: Bush Didn't Read Report. Tuesday June 11, 2002 2:20 AM. WASHINGTON (AP) - White House press secretary Ari Fleischer fessed up: President Bush didn't actually read that 268-page Environmental Protection Agency report on climate change, even if he said he did. The president's spokesman then joked that his frankness might cost him his job. ``I've enjoyed working here, thank you,'' Fleischer said. Fleischer was asked Monday at his daily White House briefing about Bush's comments that he'd read the report. ``Whenever presidents say they read it, you can read that to be he was briefed,'' Fleischer said, producing laughter. The EPA report, submitted to the United Nations, was the first by the Bush administration to mostly blame human activity for global warming - even while acknowledging some lingering scientific uncertainties. The White House favors a response to global warming that relies on increased spending on science and technology and on voluntary, not mandatory, measures to slow the rate of growth...

Posted by DeLong at 09:11 PM

I Can't Stand It...

From this morning's San Francisco Chronicle: Livermore lab plan: $1 billion misprint / Bush budget would take the money, but leave the staff In an arrangement that still has top officials at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scratching their heads, President Bush plans to send 80 percent of the lab's budget to his new Department of Homeland Security and as few as 4 percent of its employees. ... neither Ridge nor other White House aides could explain why the plan's fine print calls for the new department to employ just a fraction of the lab's workers while consuming $1.2 billion of its $1.5 billion budget. "I cannot give you the kind of explanation you need to deal with that imbalance," Ridge said Monday in response to The Chronicle's queries... Somebody in the U.S. government typed that $1.2 billion number. Can't Ridge find out who he or she is, and why that number is $1.2 billion? The overall impression left, with me at least, is that Ridge and company think of this reorganization plan as a show put on with sock puppets, rather than as an attempt to change how the government works to make it a more effective fighter against...

Posted by DeLong at 07:03 AM

June 10, 2002
Al Hunt Really Dislikes John Ashcroft

Al Hunt, Wall Street Journal columnist, really dislikes John Ashcroft--largely, it seems, for pretending now that anti-terrorism was a high priority of his back before September 11, 2001... WSJ.com - Politics & People Hindsight always is easy. There is plenty of culpability for failing to anticipate Sept. 11, and even if mistakes weren't made, the tragedy might have occurred anyway. But as the nation's chief law enforcement officer, John Ashcroft's pre-Sept. 11 agenda was fighting gun control, abortion, state laws permitting assisted suicide or medical marijuana and going after hookers and their clients, not terrorism.An attorney general sets a tone; there are many more crimes than crime-catchers in America so priorities are important. Under Robert F. Kennedy, ambitious U.S. attorneys general or FBI agents zeroed in on organized crime. Under Janet Reno, prosecutions for Medicare and Medicaid fraud, a cause of hers, soared.There is no reason to think Mr. Ashcroft ordered federal agents in New Orleans to spends hundreds and hundreds of hours watching and wiretapping brothels. But his underlings clearly knew that proving that sin and sex were pervasive wouldn't displease the boss. The endless drudgery of monitoring flight schools was not the path to advancement in the Ashcroft...

Posted by DeLong at 01:26 PM

June 09, 2002
Reagan, Hoover, and the U.C. Red Scare

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that everything you may have feared about the FBI's war on American liberalism in the 1950s and 1960s was true... SF Gate: The Campus Files. A Chronicle Special Reputations were destroyed. Information was falsified. And along the way, close ties were forged with an ambitious actor. Deemed a hotbed of Soviet spies, Berkeley and the UC system become the focus of a sweeping probe. Massive protests at Berkeley would shock the public and make news around the world. The transformation of Ronald Reagan into the darling of conservatives, and the subsequent fall of UC President Clark Kerr....

Posted by DeLong at 04:26 PM

June 07, 2002
A Very Nice Teaser About How the Bush White House Works

A truly excellent teaser about the Bush White House and Karen Hughes's role in it. The teaser may actually perform its function: get me to buy Esquire this month... Esquire Mrs. Hughes Takes Her Leave By Ron Suskind Editor's note: In an extraordinary piece of reporting begun months before the surprising announcement of Hughes's resignation in late April, Ron Suskind takes us into the inner circle of the White House and reveals an administration staggered by the loss of the president's most trusted aide and struggling to maintain its internal balance. In addition, Suskind, in a dramatic interview with White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, details the ideological balance between Hughes and presidential advisor Karl Rove which had been struck and has now been upset. The following is an excerpt from the story, which is available now in the July Esquire. ANDREW CARD, THE WHITE HOUSE chief of staff, is sitting on the couch in his squash-court-sized office looking grim. It's been six days since Hughes informed the public of her departure, and Card is just beginning to reckon with the fact that Hughes's departure "could be a turning point for this administration. Going forward, it will be different....

Posted by DeLong at 01:54 PM

June 06, 2002
PEIS--Notes on Reform...

For my sins, I have wound up as chair of an interdisciplinary studies major, Political Economy of Industrial Societies, here at Berkeley. The major has lots of eager and enthusiastic students--those who want to do interdisciplinary work are, in my experience, the most eager and enthusiastic, and often very capable as well. The major has next to no money. Therefore we survive through exploitation: paying lecturers $7000 a pop to teach courses, thus taking advantage of the large excess supply of academics in history, political science, and related disciplines that have--in an appalling failure of workforce planning--been pumped out of America's universities over the past decades. I had coffee with one of my lecturers yesterday. Jesse Goldhammer, a guy who has just moved to Berkeley from Austin, a newly-minted Berkeley Ph.D. in political science, a political theorist, with a just-completed dissertation (and, hopefully, soon a book contract) on French political thinkers' conceptions of violence as both foundation-making and foundation-breaking for political regimes. We have him slotted to teach one course--PEIS 101, Modern Theories of Political Economy--this summer, and two courses next spring. He is--as are all of our lecturers--smart, enthusiastic, a very good teacher, intellectually curious, and convinced at some...

Posted by DeLong at 10:54 AM

June 03, 2002
Republicans: The Really Stupid Party

Bush bewildered [Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso] with the question "Do you have blacks, too?"

Posted by DeLong at 02:07 PM

May 23, 2002
Strong American Relative Growth

During the 1990s, U.S. economic growth by far outstripped that of the other major industrial economies.

Posted by DeLong at 02:27 PM

May 12, 2002
Let Us Now Praise Right Wing Hacks

David Broder thinks that the success of the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute is "something to cheer" because they are so "proficient in generating and promoting ideas" and have great "intellectual honesty." I disagree: I think David Broder has lost his ability to distinguish intellectual wheat from partisan chaff. Cato and Heritage's main function is to provide soundbites. As a result,their work can rarely be relied on: too much of the time, even when the good, straight, accurate arguments are on their side, the guys from Cato and Heritage are likely to come up with something twisted, inaccurate, and misleading that sounds punchy. Brendan Nyhan also disagrees with Broder, and expresses it better than I do.) For example, consider Stephen Moore, sometime Director of Fiscal Policy Studies at Cato, sometime a Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Let me pull down from the shelf Stephen Moore and Julian Simon (2000), _It's Getting Better All the Time: 100 Greatest Trends of the Last Hundred Years_ (Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute). It's a book I by and large agree with: things are a lot better now than they were 100 years ago. It's a book I'm sorry I bought, because I cannot refer...

Posted by DeLong at 02:58 PM

May 09, 2002
More Evidence That Republicans Really Are the Stupid Party

When Dick Armey calls for Israel to "grab the entire West Bank" and for Palestinians to move to a Palestinian state someplace else--in their "hundreds of thousands of acres of land... and soil and property and opportunity" that Arab countries have, does he know what he is saying?...

Posted by DeLong at 03:18 PM

April 03, 2002
Heart of Technocracy: The Eccles Building

Marriner Eccles: "... by monetary means exercised promptly and courageously we can greatly mitigate the worst evils of inflation and deflation..." "The management of the central bank must be absolutely free from the dangers of control by politics and by private interests, singly or combined..." Since the start of the New Deal, considered in historical perspective, the Federal Reserve has been magnificently successful as a technocratic institution....

Posted by DeLong at 10:14 PM

March 22, 2002
Pay as You Go

Stan Collender of the _National Journal_ is depressed about the state of the congressional budget debate for many reasons. The first--and most remarkable--is the "claim by several members of the House Budget Committee that the budget they reported out last week is actually in balance if the recently enacted stimulus bill is not counted." But these are the same representatives who voted for the stimulus bill. It is just "crazy," writes Collender, "[T]ry to imagine not rolling your eyes as someone told you that the federal budget would be in surplus so long as the Defense Department wasn't counted." Here are the other reasons: (2) The House Budget Committee's abandonment of ten-year projections. (3) The Budget Committee's shift to the more-optimistic White House budget baseline just because it is more optimistic. (Ah, I remember my days in the Clinton Administration when we used the more pessimistic baseline because we are interested in actually achieving good economic policies rather than just winning rhetorical victories.) (4) Congress's continued inability to raise the ceiling amount on the federal debt--House leaders who would "rather see cash from government pension funds [borrowed without the consent of the fund owners] on a short-term basis than take...

Posted by DeLong at 10:01 PM

November 23, 2001
Mickey Kaus on the Florida Recount

Everything the New York Times Thinks About the Florida Recount Is Wrong! - It turns out theU.S. Supreme Court really did cast the deciding vote ... By Mickey Kaus Just when you thought the Florida recount story was settling down into a familiar bitter partisan dispute, the Orlando Sentinel has changed the story line again. The Sentinel, remember, was the paper that first uncovered the hidden cache of valid, uncounted "overvotes"--seemingly double-voted ballots that, as the massive media recount of Florida has now confirmed, were the key to a potential Gore victory, if only he had known it......

Posted by DeLong at 09:46 PM

October 12, 1999
Retail Politics in Suburbia

Dialing for Dollars: The Politics of Getting Money for California Schools "Hello. My name is Brad DeLong. I'm the parent of two kids at Burton Valley. I'm volunteering tonight to call people to ask for their support for Measure E, the parcel tax measure for local Lafayette schools." Note the words parent, volunteer, local. I'm not Washington calling: I'm your neighbor. This isn't big government: this is volunteerism. This isn't for some federal construction boondoggle: this is for the school in your neighborhood. This isn't the high politics I used to do: "Yes, Mr. Congressman. Your Republican opponent next year will say that you voted to raise taxes. But did you know that only 3,246 (estimated) households in your district will pay those higher income tax rates? And that 13,245 (estimated) households in your district will benefit from the enhanced Earned Income Tax Credit?" This isn't the long-range politics that I try to do: trying to become one of the "academic scribblers" to whom "madmen in authority" are listening when they hear their voices in the air. This is low--but very real--politics......

Posted by DeLong at 04:09 PM