Saturday, April 12, 2003
AN EXPLANATION FOR THE PICTURE
I put this picutre up briefly for a friend of mine and then forgot to take it down. Anyway, the guy in the middle is me. The little guy on my lap is my cousin (yes, cousin) Ryan, and I am "helping" him unwrap my Christmas gift to him. The woman to the left is my aunt, and Ryan's mom, Cecilia. The big lug behind her is my dad, who is talking to my grandmother. The back of the photo says this is Christmas 2000.
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Friday, April 11, 2003
KRUGMAN MAY NEED CRUTCHES
Paul Krugman has developed an unfortunate habit of shooting himself in the foot in his own columns. However, he doesn’t merely shoot himself once; he empties the clip, then stumbles around on what must be shattered metatarsals looking for more rounds.
Here is what Krugman states about the proposed dividend tax cut:
USA Today reports that faced with concerns in Congress about budget deficits, the administration has indicated that it is willing to consider a phase-in of its dividend plan.
That is, it's willing to forgo immediate tax cuts — the one piece of its proposal that might actually help the economy now — in order to be able to pass its long-run proposal intact, and hence claim total victory.
Krugman is engaging in some sleight of hand. He transforms a “phase-in” of the dividend tax cut into forgoing “immediate tax cuts.” In other words, he implies that Bush is giving up on all immediate tax cuts. That’s simply not true, given that the Bush Administration is still committed to an immediate income tax cut. (I also suspect that the Administration is still wants an immediate cut in dividend taxation, for reasons I state below.)
Krugman also backtracks in that passage. In a column from January, he wrote:
By now you've probably read a lot about the economics of the administration's plan; all the criticisms are true. The plan has nothing to do with stimulus, since less than a dime on the dollar will arrive in the next year. Its benefits are almost ludicrously tilted toward the very, very affluent.
Back then the Bush plan had “nothing to do with stimulus”; now “it might help the economy.” Apparently Krugman thinks it’s okay to shift arguments when it gives him an additional opportunity to bash Bush.
Krugman also shoots himself in the foot by attributing the apparent Bush willingness to phase-in the dividend tax cut to politics:
….the White House is fixated on achieving another political triumph — the elimination of taxes on dividends — that has little or no relevance to our current economic troubles.
If the motivation for all of this is politics, then why settle for a dividend tax cut that will have no near-term effect? I doubt that the White House wants to go into its reelection campaign with the economy limping along. Someone inform Krugman that the next election is only 18 months away.
In a side note, I wouldn’t get my undies in a bunch over the supposed willingness of the Administration to go for a gradual phase-in of the dividend proposal. I suspect it is a political ploy to both bait the Democrats and fire up the Republican base. See this article I wrote for the American Prowler for an idea of what the Administration might be up to.
Last but by no means least, Don Luskin has more, as does Alex Knapp.
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A WAR FOR OIL—NOT!
Rekha Basu is still at it, although this one’s not quite as bad as the DMRWCE (although that’s not saying much):
The Bush administration has promised a transition to Iraqi self-rule. But if the United States takes control of Iraq's oil, it may make rebellion against American corporate control inevitable. What if the Iraqis, having elected their own government, decide to again nationalize their oil fields? Will the United States abide by their decision, or engineer another regime change until Americans can find a government favorable to U.S. corporate interests?
You know the war has gone well when its opponents are reduced to arguments thinner than a moth wing.
The Bush Administration is not going to take Iraq’s oil because, first, there is no way they could get away with it. So many critics on the left have accused them of waging war for oil, and so many supporters on the right have exerted considerable effort refuting the charge, that the media is going to be watching the Administration’s every move regarding Iraqi oil. It would give the Democrats, especially those running for President, a huge issue to use against Bush. Bush’s critics have often accused him of waging the war for purely political (read “reelection”) reasons. Funny they never consider a similar political calculation when contemplating Bush Administration’s intentions toward Iraqi oil.
Taking Iraqi oil would also be detrimental, if not fatal, to the Administration’s plans to establish democracy in Iraq and, possibly, the rest of the Middle East. It would eventually turn the Iraqi population against the Bush Administration, and make it hostile to any government that it had instituted in Baghdad. It would further complicate democratization by providing excellent fodder for demagogues wishing to gain power in Iraq. Finally, were the Bush Administration to take Iraqi oil, the image that many in the Arab world have of America as the “Great Satan” would only be further solidified. You could forget about democratizing places like Iran, Saudi Arabia, or Syria.
Iraqi oil fields will be back in the control of Iraqis within months. So Basu can stop her obnoxious hand-wringing. But she probably won’t.
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Thursday, April 10, 2003
AND IN OTHER NEWS, ICE IS COLD
Foreign Press Is Not Impressed
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NEW TALKING POINTS MEMO FOR PEACE PROTESTERS
(With apologies to James Lileks.)
TO: International Committee for Peace and Justice, International Committee for Justice and Peace, and the rest of you
FROM: The Committee
Unfortunately since the last memo, the war has gone much worse than we had hoped. The
allies war-mongering imperialists have captured Baghdad, Iraqis are cheering in the street, and the United Nations has been discredited. The heat will be on from the press, but also possibly from the pro-war crowd Bush brown-shirts. Yet there are still many skillful ways to answer the inevitable questions. Below are suggested responses.
Question: Do you feel foolish about predicting a quagmire?
Response: Well, there is still the occupation of Iraq, which will be difficult, not to mention the anger the rest of the world feels toward us. It will inspire countless acts of terrorism against the U.S.
Question: Do the cheering Iraqis make you think that what America did was a good thing?
Response: They won’t be cheering for long once they experience globalization. When U.S. multinational corporations move in to exploit them, when they realize that the U.S. will steal their oil, they will understand what this so-called “war of liberation” was really about.
(Whenever possible use an oil reference. Also bring in the globalization angle often. This will animate our rank-and-file (all 16%) and help us raise travel funds for the next WTO meeting. For example, see next question/response.)
Question: What about the children released from the Iraqi prison?
Response: A pure tragedy. Soon-to-be Nike sweatshop workers.
Question: But what if that doesn’t happen? What if the Iraqis really are better off after the war?
Response: The Iraqis aren’t better off because of the civilian casualties. When Iraqis realize the human cost of this war, of the many civilian casualties, they will feel far less gratitude toward the U.S.
(This last question/response is subject to review. It might backfire if speaking to
FoxNews the Corporate Conglomerate Media Bush-Ailes Complex. Those folks might actually point out that civilian casualties are far fewer in this war than in others, and it is far less than those who perished under Saddam. Or, worse, they may make us look really bad by noting that the casualties are far fewer than the 250,000 we predicted. So be careful. With other media outlets, feel free to mention civilian casualties as much as you want.)
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REGISTER RUN BY RAINES?
Andrew Sullivan notes that “almost every single newspaper in the country declares yesterday a turning point, an historic moment, the critical end of the Saddam regime.” The one exception? The New York Times.
Actually, two exceptions. The Des Moines Register has the following stories on its front page online:
“Baghdad is Hit By Arson and Looting” and “Iowans Remain Concerned.”
Seems like the Des Moines Register has a case of big-city newspaper envy.
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SEEING WHAT THEY WANT TO SEE
After a brief interlude during which they actually did some research, the Register editorialists are back to their lazy ways:
President Bush is counting on more tax cuts to turn everything around, but that's wishful thinking. An analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the president's proposal will have little effect on the economy - and the small effect it does have possibly could be negative. Any stimulation from the tax cuts could be more than offset by the dampening caused by huge budget deficits.
Well, not exactly. Here’s what the report said:
The overall macroeconomic effect of the proposals in the President's budget is not obvious. For example, some provisions in the proposals would lower marginal federal tax rates on labor and capital income. By themselves, those provisions would tend to increase labor supply, investment in productive capital (such as factories and machines), and the economy's output. However, the proposals also would promote the consumption of goods and services by both the government and the private sector, which would tend to reduce investment.
In other words, it’s not so much the tax cuts that are the problem, as it is consumption, particularly government consumption.
The Register ends the editorial by aksing "If Bush's tax cuts won't work, what will?" The answer is Bush's tax cut will work if we hold down government spending. But somehow I doubt that's the answer the Register wants to hear.
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Wednesday, April 09, 2003
THEY DID IT AGAIN!
It’s for reasons like this that I love the Des Moines Register:
In 1990, 1,148,702 inmates were in state or federal prisons or local jails. By June 30, 2002, the count had nearly doubled, to 2,019,234. Tougher sentencing laws are behind the increase - which has occurred despite a decline in the reported crime rate.
It just never seems to occur to these people that there might be connection between more criminals in prison and a lower crime rate. It’s an incidental occurrence. As this is the third time in about eight months that the Register has made such a statement, I’m not going to rehash the obvious stupidity of it. If want to see previous comments, go here and here.
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WINTER OF THEIR SIMILARITIES
Implying that there is no connection to the crime rate and prison population is not the only way the Des Moines Register is imitating the New York Times. Both seem to have a fascination with the recent weather:
From the Times:
If nothing else, the snowstorm brought a kind of temporal chaos, caused in part by the shift over the weekend to daylight saving time. The extra hour of sunlight at the end of the day felt like an augury of summer, no matter what form of precipitation was falling from the sky. But the extra hour of darkness in the morning made it feel as if we had jumped backward a month or two. The snow only confounded the season further. Soon enough all the clues will point in the right direction, toward an unstoppable spring. For now we will have to make do with vernal hopes and intentions.
From the Register:
When you woke up Sunday, daylight-saving time had hurled you forward an hour. On Monday, the falling snow plowed you back in time a month. When you stepped outside, it was hard to know what to think. Some general predictability in the weather is expected. Even in Iowa. Colder temperatures maybe. But not snow.
From the Times:
Never mind the records or the averages. What matters isn't what happened years ago or what usually happens — just what happened yesterday. A mass of warm air sliding up from the south collided with a dome of unseasonably cold air, and snow fell in New York City and across the mid-Atlantic states. It came down in demoralizing fistfuls, like scraps of winter's calendar flung into spring. Everything was put on hold: the rose leaves in Bryant Park, the first blush on the buds in the botanical gardens, even the Yankees' home opener. Winter has never seemed quite so reluctant to retreat for good.
From the Register:
Just last week the sun was shining, the temperatures were hot, and spring was in full swing.
Then Monday morning you were searching for the snow scraper buried deep under the car seat. The sprouting tulips were buried in white. Rather than clinging to bare branches, snow wrapped itself around buds on trees and bushes. It was cold. You reluctantly pulled out a pair of gloves. Maybe you shoveled before heading to work. Maybe you got the snowblower out of the basement.
From the Times:
The one consolation, especially for those who groaned when they saw the flakes falling yesterday, is that this snowfall will not be around for long. Consider it the last cleansing of the city — a rechristening of sorts — before summer's grime. Say that it proves, once again, the hardiness of New Yorkers or shows at least what we have to put up with. But just say there's no more winter to come.
From the Register:
The traffic moved slowly. The radio announced some school delays. At work, entryway floors were wet from snowy shoes. Winter coats reappeared. Co-workers complained about the weather, and soccer practices were canceled. Sure, sometimes it snows in April. But after a long winter, that's hard to take.
Do liberal editorial pages work from the same template?
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Tuesday, April 08, 2003
IF YOU FAVOR TAX CUTS YOU’RE UNPATRIOTIC
Paul Krugman is in a snit today because some politicians have dared question the patriotism of those politicians who have criticized President Bush during the time of war. Krugman sets us straight:
The biggest test of a politician's patriotism is whether he is willing to sacrifice some of his political agenda for the sake of the nation. And that's a test our current leaders have failed with flying colors.
Consider the case of Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, who also piled on Mr. Kerry last week. As it happens, during the war in Kosovo Mr. DeLay was a defeatist, and blamed his own country for provoking Serbian atrocities; any Democrat who said similar things now would be accused of giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
Mr. DeLay's political agenda hasn't shifted a bit now that we're at war again. He's still pushing for huge, divisive tax cuts that go mainly to the rich: "Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes," he says. And he's still eager to slash any and all domestic spending. In the midst of war he pushed through a budget that included sharp cuts in, yes, veterans' benefits.
Wait a minute. Isn’t Krugman questioning Tom Delay’s patriotism? And isn’t he implying that being in favor of tax reductions and spending cuts is unpatriotic? One could plausibly accuse Krugman using patriotism to silence the proponents of policies he doesn’t like.
Indeed, Krugman’s definition of patriotism seems designed not to get at what is patriotic as to discredit the Republican’s fiscal agenda. Presumably Republican’s tax cuts only benefit the rich, while the government spending will benefit the entire nation. But government spending often benefits only government employees plus some special interest groups. Perhaps Krugman could show some of his patriotic stripes by sacrificing some of his agenda.
UPDATE: Krugman also takes this pot shot at Republican National Committee chairman Marc Racicot:
I'm not just talking about military service — though it's striking how few of our biggest hawks have served. Nor am I talking only about financial sacrifice — though profiting from public office seems to be the norm, not the exception, among those who wrap themselves in the flag. (Mr. Racicot himself accepted the job as R.N.C. chairman only on the condition that he remain on the payroll of Bracewell and Patterson, a law firm that specializes in lobbying.)
First of all, the job of R.N.C. chairman is not a government position; thus Racicot doesn’t hold a “public office.” (Although Krugman probably has a special definition for that term too.) Furthermore, singling out Racicot for supposed “profiting” from public office seems a bit like the pot calling the kettle black. Either that, or I missed the news that D.N.C. chairman Terry McAuliffe donated that $18 million he made off of selling Global Crossing stock to charity.
Also, Don Luskin has more.
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GOVERNMENT SPENDING REPLACES THE SPANKING
The Des Moines Register pans a recent Cal Thomas column that criticized government spending:
Thomas informed readers that Citizens Against Government Waste on April 9 will release its annual "Pig Book," with details of congressional pork. Then he listed some of the items that apparently made him angriest, including $250,000 for Family Communications Inc. to implement a National Preschool Anger Management project in Iowa.
Which sounds a lot more ridiculous than it is.
We made a few phone calls, and it turns out that Iowa will receive the money to train local folks in how to present the three-hour workshop "What Do You Do with the Mad that You Feel?" The grant also will support them as they go around the state to deliver the workshop to child-care providers, including materials for participants.
Family Communications, which produced "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" for three decades, is a non-profit company based in Pittsburgh that creates a variety of materials designed to help young children. The plan is to reach more than 1,000 child-care providers in Iowa over a year's time.
It’s nice that the Register editorialists have finally done some research beyond the headlines of press releases (although they couldn’t be bothered when in the case of 21st Century Community Learning Centers.) But while the editorialists have figured out how to research via the phone, they have yet to master the internet. You see, I did a simple Google search of “National Preschool Anger Management” and found that the materials—video, booklet, CD-ROM—cost about $80. So if the federal government were to provide those materials to the 1,000 child-care providers in Iowa, it would spend about $80,000 (and probably less if one was sent to each child-care facility, instead of each provider). Rather it is going to spend $250,000 to send some folks out to give some seminars. Even if this spending was necessary, one can easily argue that the feds are going to spend too much.
But it isn’t clear (at least from the editorial) why such a program is necessary. Whatever happened to old-fashioned discipline? When I was in pre-school, if you lashed out in anger you were punished by being forced to sit in a corner and having painting privileges revoked. Yes, I know that is not consistent with trendy new education theories about helping children “gradually learn the self-control necessary to mange [sic] their anger and channel it into productive activity.” But it’s a lot cheaper.
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Monday, April 07, 2003
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT—NOT IN SECRET, AND NOT AT ALL
I actually find myself agreeing with this part of a pro-Iowa Values Fund editorial in the Des Moines Register:
What leaders in the Legislature should not do:
Cobble together a plan in secret, and leave the impression the deal was rammed through without broad discussion. That tactic has become increasingly common - remember the closed-door meetings last session of the 12 legislators anointed to change the law on hog lots and the environment? It invites suspicion, thereby undermining chances the public will buy into major, necessary change.
No, they should not do it in secret. Okay that’s enough agreement:
The idea of an Iowa Values Fund is solid, and there's wide agreement on that.
No, it’s not solid. Look at Tables 7 and 8 that compare the economic performance of 10 states with highest per-capita economic development spending across vs. 10 states with the lowest. The states with lowest economic development spending had higher average rates of economic growth than the states with the highest. Given that the Iowa Values Fund will require the state of Iowa to take on debt, it should be noted that states with the highest amounts of debt as a percentage of personal income also had lower average rates of economic growth than the states with lowest amounts of debt. (See Tables 3 and 4.)
So what’s going on here? Well, the likeliest explanation is that states that have the higher amounts of economic development spending and government debt have higher spending obligations. This increases the need for tax revenue, which in turn increases pressure to keep taxes high. Given that businesses gravitate toward states with lower taxes, it is little mystery why states that increase the pressure for high taxes should experience lower rates of economic growth. Given that the Iowa Values Fund sends Iowa in the direction of more government spending and debt, Iowa’s leaders should dump the idea into the waste basket.
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Joe emailed this article in the Des Moines Register which contains one of the more unfortunate juxtapositions in recent memory:
The Des Moines protesters weren't just diverse in age - the rally was a coordinated effort among 15 groups. They were diverse in race, occupation, class and political orientation, Westerberg said.
"We are anarchists, socialists and everything in between," he said at the beginning of the rally. "We are united in support of an end to this illegal war."
As Joe put it:
Everything from anarchists to socialists... Trotskyites, Spartacists, Stalinists, Maoists, everything. A demonstration that looks like America!
Or at least looks like, well, a demonstration:
The crowd shouted and cheered for a series of speeches and songs. Then the people marched, signs in hand, through the downtown streets.
In between, the crowd fell silent and lay still on the cement ground for what organizers called a "die-in," symbolizing the victims of war.
Michael Blackwell, director of the Center for Multicultural Education at the University of Northern Iowa, read a poem that enumerated the wars he said need to be fought in the United States - including wars against poverty and homelessness.
"As we jeopardize the lives of millions of people at home and hundreds of thousands abroad, I am opposed to this war," he said.
After reading passages like that one, I’d add dupes, fools, and useful idiots.
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