November 29, 2008

Stupid Hippies

I am now passed irked and into ticked off.  EJ Dionne:

Obama's national security choices are already causing grumbling from parts of the antiwar left, even if Obama made clear six years ago that while he was with them on Iraq, he was not one of them.

Ironically, Obama is likely to show more fidelity to George H.W. Bush's approach to foreign affairs than did the former president's own son. That's change, maybe even change we can believe in, but it's not the change so many expected.

If EJ wants to make claims like this, he needs some quotations. Because none of the dirty fucking hippies I know had any doubts about Obama's foreign policy plans.  In fact, Glenn Greenwald has been writing for years about the Democratic establishment in Washington being completely on board with (what I call) the Great American Hegemony Project, that having a seat at a foreign policy table in Washington requires committing to the use of military force, on a routine, unilateral basis. 

There was never any indication, whatsoever, that Obama was not part of this Village Society.  In fact, it was so clear that he was part of the Village that he was never popular with the left wing of the party.  It's true that Obama was forced into voting against a supplemental bill that many of the left believed he supported, in his heart of hearts. And it's true he was forced to distance himself from Samantha Power after she made remarks that cast doubt upon the seriousness of his sixteenth month Iraq  withdrawal plan.  But nobody is surprised that he has just put Power into a position on his transition  team, at least nobody who was paying attention during the campaign.

This narrative--that this is an unexpected direction is taking hold.  It's false, and its effect will be to undermine a Presidency that we very badly need to succeed.

November 28, 2008


Karl Rove, via a Matt Browner-Hamlin tweet, quotes Michael Boskin:

Stanford economist Michael Boskin reminds us that conservatives favor permanent, or long-lived, measures to revive the economy -- incentives like lower income-tax rates, actions to speed recovery of capital costs like bonus depreciation, and steps with an immediate effect on job creation such as cuts in corporate tax rate.

He left out the fairy dust.  What makes them think that they can just keep repeating this stuff, over and over again, and thus make it true?  Any cuts like this are necessary temporary, mostly driven by manipulation of tax returns, and proven not to work over the eight year Bush administration implementation of such policies.

Permanent policies like this can't have any particular effect. One of the things that is bad about such policies is that, if markets work, their value gets incorporated into the price of whatever securities are involved. Take the home mortgage deduction. The value of that tax deduction is in the price of the house you buy.  Look at this two ways. First, if you've ever been to a realtor, they have this work sheet, entitled "How much can you pay?"  and work up the highest possible monthly payment you can afford, net of the tax benefit.  This was true even when banks required 20 percent downpayments.  Second, think what would happen if the mortgage tax deduction were eliminated. Prices would fall, right?

Same thing here. If investors demand X% return after tax, lowering taxes can only have a one-time effect, not a permanent effect. In practice, what happens is that these taxes get jerked around, shifting spending according to the tax calendar rather than business requirements.  In a first best world, there would be no corporate income tax in any case.  There would be individual taxes, at the rate regardless of source.

(And, in my first best world, confiscatory estate taxes.) 

Thankgiving Change

Well, it took several conversations, but I finally understand.  I've been finding it pretty inexplicable that people regard it as surprising that Obama's appointments are in the least bit unexpected, or inconsistent with his message of change.  I've been seeing on the blogosphere more of the former, but I'm having a hard time distinguishing these posts as actual disappointment, or lobbying for a leftward shift in the appointments. As folks at FireDogLake, Eschaton, DailyKos have been saying all along,  the guy ran as a centrist. It's not surprising that he is making appointments from the center of the party. Obama promised to get things done. He is not going to get things done if his appointees spend the first six months getting up to speed.

Jane  did a nice job on Rachel Maddow's show summarizing this point of view, in the video above.

(Nice to see a guest lineup that represents a little more of America. Just sayin'.)

In any case, I haven't heard much, other than in the traditional media, that these appointments are an indication that Obama has backed away from his campaign commitment to "Change,' by not choosing radically enough.   I thought this was just a lazy media narrative, and another application of the Clinton rules.  Since all Obama can do, visibly, at this stage is make high-level appointments, it's an easy story to write to say "Okay, so, where's the Change?" As atrios has pointed out, as well, this seems to reflect the media buying McCain's campaign's presentation of Obama as some kind of wild-eyed, socialist radical who would be putting David Sirota in as Treasury Secretary and Cliff Schecter as Chief Spokesman.

However, I didn't figure it out until the T-Day conversations, but there is something else going on here. When I tried to say that if you want change, good places to start are ending the radical policies of the Bush administration, returning to Constitutional precepts, the resuming the foreign policy consensus of the last 50 years (the "pragmatic," "realistic" Great American Hegemony Project discussed in each issue of Foreign Affairs), sane fiscal policy, a shift to a less regressive system of taxation, and the application of laws and regulations passed by Congress and signed by the President.  Pointing out this is quite a bit of change was met with, shall we say, skepticism.

Of course, I said that a little less succinctly, in the event. And used different pieces of it at a time.

The point is that most people do not seem to regard the last administration as significantly different in form or philosophy from the Clinton administration. They simply see it as less effective, and less competent.  And, frankly, not that much less competent. As the media focuses on the seeds of some of these policies of fiscal deregulation as set in the Clinton era,  the extreme nature of the Bush administration is going to become blurred. 

It's ironic that the left blogosphere assists in this blurring, with many people viewing the Clinton administration as not progressive. Just be aware that this was Ralph Nader's argument in 2000, that the two parties are essentially identical.  It was for this reason that Summers looks to have been a bad choice, even in a behind the scenes advisory role.  He and Rubin are seen as progenitors in the current narrative, even though Greenspan and the Fed look to be the source of most of the difficulty. Oh, and the Bush SEC relaxing leverage rules ( to 30-1) on uninsured institutions that were too big to fail.

But that's neither here nor there. The Change theme is going to cause trouble throughout the transition.  Not enough movement leftward for either lobbying or disillusioned lefties, not different enough for centrists who don't understand just how radical the Bush Administration was, and a source of derision of the "Drill baby drill" style from the right. "So where's all the change?"

The only response that can be made is that there have been a few dozen people, nameless, who have been working on the policy elements of the new administration for months. All indications are that policy is going to come from the White House, not the Cabinet.  And as much as Little Tommy Friedman would like to move the inauguration up, putting his Suck.On. This. nightmare into the past,  this will have to wait until January 20th.

November 24, 2008


I tweeted this already. It's probably not any better with more characters. 

The story we invidual suckers have been told is that if you want to keep your money safe, then it should be in FDIC insured accounts, with the maximum of 100,000 dollars.  At my co-op (a 40 unit building in NYC), we manage our holdings to make sure that none of our capital reserve exceeds that amount at any one bank.

So we have, for years, accepted lower yields than we could have gotten in other investments because our investments were safe.

I suppose they are just as safe. But it turns out that if you were betting the corporation, over and over again,  on red vs black you were also safe.

Moral hazard? It's what for breakfast.

Why would anybody, ever, be prudent?


November 23, 2008

Netroots Primer Part 1

Predictably enough, the last week’s developments, particularly the first round of Cabinet appointments, and Joe Lieberman’s continued chairmanship generated a lot of blogospheric discussion. And just as predictably, the traditional media and their unnamed sources made remarks regarding the unhinged left once again not getting their way. Of course, now the codeword for “the unhinged left” is “the netroots,” or as we like to call ourselves, in parody of the attendant derision, the dirty fucking hippies*.

Reading a couple of articles, several posts and some comment threads, I realized we need a primer for those  who came to the movement during this election cycle. 

“The netroots” is obviously a coinage related to “grassroots.”  People who regard themselves as members of the netroots see themselves as a collection of ordinary citizens using the internet to organize.  The simplest way to think of the netroots is as an open source citizens’ lobbyist group.

“Open source” means “anyone can participate.” “Citizens’ lobbyist group” means “people who are trying to influence government in the general public interest.”

All lobbyists say this bit about the general public interest, of course. I suspect even the guy who lobbies for the retention of mohair subsidy has a spiel worked out on how terribly important it is to America that mohair producers not be subjected to foreign competition. I doubt he uses the original national security argument, as we stopped using mohair in Army uniforms sometime after World War I.

But we really mean it. It turns out this is disconcerting to elected officials. At least, in my personal experience you get a double-take if, in response to a staffer who says (and they do invariably say this) “Who are you with?”, you say, “Nobody.” 

Lobbyists try to advance the interests of the causes they represent by

1)  Talking to elected officials and their staffs, explaining the importance of their clients’ interests

2)  Providing information about the impact of legislation on their clients, to the point that they are frequently involved in early drafts of the relevant parts of that legislation

3)   Bribing elected officials.

The first two methods are self-evident, and actually make some sense. Most people don’t know a whole lot about the mohair industry, and it’s entirely possible that nobody on some Congressional staffs that are charged with reviewing the current set of tariffs and subsidies knows anything at all about mohair production. However, it also seems self-evidently wrong to have an industry being regulated actually writing the legislation.

The bribery thing needs some explanation. (By the way, one reason they call us dirty fucking hippies is we say stuff like this out loud in polite company.) There are all sorts of ways that lobbyists bribe Congressmen.  The first, most open, and therefore, least effective is through campaign contributions.  That is not to say that it is not effective. One reason the turnover rate in Congress, up until the last two sessions anyway, was less than that of the Politburo’s, is because incumbents provide a very high rate of return on campaign contributions. 40,000 dollars from your industry can easily generate a hundred million dollars worth of contracts.  One way to see this rate of return is by checking the relationship between an elected official’s committee assignments and his donors. 

Less visible is lifestyle enhancement.  Senators and Members of Congress don’t make very much money relative to the amounts of money they control the disbursement of, even when you include perqs.  The people seeking to influence those disbursements don’t make large fractions of those disbursements for influencing them, but small fractions of those very large numbers still leaves them with salaries in the millions and tens of millions.  So lobbyists provide access to a lifestyle substantially swankier than the public servant salaries would support.  As Duke Cunningham and Ted Stevens demonstrate, there are limits to how much of this lifestyle enhancement you can get away with. And, as William Jefferson demonstrated, you’re much better off sticking to  enhancement in kind. 

Next up are lucrative jobs for spouses and staff.  Spouses can be very complicated. Elected officials are often already married to wealthy people with interests in government affairs before they assume office. Sometimes it’s probably true that they would not have been able to get elected at all without those spousal connections.  Other times, the spouse finds doors open for lucrative employment, following the election, that would not have been available beforehand.  Likewise, elected officials are dependent on staff who are very talented, very well educated, very diligent and very underpaid.  Long term relationships with staffers often leads to their spending parts of their careers in lobbying organizations making boatloads of money.  (It’s easy to think of McCain here, but he’s just been very visible lately.  Recall the recent stories about Democrats telling K Street that there better be some Democratic jobs opening up.)

Last and not least are jobs for yourself when you leave office.  Tom Daschle left office, and walked into a job that pays millions.  So, in office, you can be sure that you will be able to continue your swanky lifestyle when you leave, thanks to your lobbyist friends.

Of course, it’s not as crass as this description. What really happens is that if you’re a Senator, you are treated the same way as a captain of industry, hob-nobbing with other rich people, even married to one, becoming concerned for their needs, and they for yours (Bob Dole spent his entire career, pre-retirement, in public service, and left office a rich man). You come to take a certain lifestyle for granted, a certain deference, a certain collection of friends.   There comes a time when it is not self-evidently a bad idea to have them writing legislation regulating themselves.

This also means you don’t see many ordinary citizens.

This is where the netroots come in.  People have noticed that it is hard to get in touch with your Member of Congress or Senator (despite, as Christy Hardin Smith likes to say, he or she works for you) unless you are part of these lobbying groups.  But there wasn’t a whole lot you could do about that, other than throwing things at the teevee and stomping around.

Moreover, many people have noticed that our elected officials aren’t passing laws in the interest of the general public, but rather in the interests of the lobbyists they spend so much time with.  The internet made it possible for people who had been throwing things at their teevees to meet each other and organize, in the hopes of turning more legislators' attention to the common good.

 The netroots have two goals.

  1.  Lobbying public officials to vote in their constituents’ interest and in the public interest.

  2. Getting public officials elected who will vote in their constituents’ interest, and in the public interest.

You’ll note there is no ideology in this formulation.  However, it turns out that most of the time when actions are taken that are in the public interest, they end up falling to the left of the currently defined political spectrum.  There are exceptions. The Wall Street bailout covered the political spectrum. Everybody was against it, left, right and center. Many, many people told their elected officials they were against it.  It passed nonetheless.  (More and more it looks like the general public was right about this.)  But, in general, the issues that interest the netroots involve preservation of civil liberties, women's reproductive rights, reduced use and size of the military, more effective regulation of corporations, a more equal income distribution, recognition of climate change as a problem, and a generally reality-based approach to governance.  As things currently stand these are positions left of center, hence the term “left blogosphere.”

But you will find that most of the positions the left blogosphere support are positions that are also supported by the majority of Americans, often by wide margins.  Mainstream America is against the war in Iraq, against domestic surveillance, against immunity for lawbreaking corporations, in favor of products being tested for safety, in favor of products being labeled accurately, for universal health care coverage,  for the right to get a morning after pill and so forth.  Oh, and they don't like President Bush. At all.

This is the end of part 1 of this primer. 


The netroots is an open source citizens’ lobbying group, that tries to advance causes in the public interest through citizen actions and through support of candidates who vote in the public interest.


*Exegesis of this phrase, which I suspect was coined by Atrios, is worth a footnote.  It’s a shorthand reference to various narratives about commentators in the left blogosphere. The “hippie” part are those that make us out to be a bunch a crazy, flower-tossing, stoned fantasists, with no understanding of the real world, hopelessly trapped in a mythical version of the sixties.   The dirty part refers to our being unfit for polite company, Vinny from Queens, posting drivel from his parents’ basement dressed in his underwear while covered in Cheetoh dust. The “fucking” part refers to the fact some of us actually use the words in our phosphor print that are used in august places like the Senate cloakroom or the New York Times newsroom. 

We embraced the phrase because it is shorthand way of noting the absurdity of these characterizations. 

November 22, 2008

Policy vs Power

Fifteen years ago, Bill Kristol famously wrote a memo* saying that Clinton's health care plan had to be stopped at all costs, because it would be so popular in the general public that Republicans would lose the middle class.  Steve Benen  has a piece in the Monthly this morning about the current plan to stop reform at all costs.   The key point to take away from this is they oppose universal health care because, in parallel with Social Security, it would be very effective policy, and therefore popular with the middle class and most Americans.

And therefore must be stopped.  

There could not be a clearer statement of where these people's interest lies.  They do not decide that they need to find a market based method that will be just as effective. They work as hard as they can to make millions of Americans are without health care, miserable thereby, and will be willing to vote Republican.

*December 2, 1993 - Leading conservative operative William Kristol privately circulates a strategy document to Republicans in Congress. Kristol writes that congressional Republicans should work to "kill" -- not amend -- the Clinton plan because it presents a real danger to the Republican future: Its passage will give the Democrats a lock on the crucial middle-class vote and revive the reputation of the party. Nearly a full year before Republicans will unite behind the "Contract With America," Kristol has provided the rationale and the steel for them to achieve their aims of winning control of Congress and becoming America's majority party. Killing health care will serve both ends. The timing of the memo dovetails with a growing private consensus among Republicans that all-out opposition to the Clinton plan is in their best political interest. Until the memo surfaces, most opponents prefer behind-the-scenes warfare largely shielded from public view. The boldness of Kristol's strategy signals a new turn in the battle. Not only is it politically acceptable to criticize the Clinton plan on policy grounds, it is also politically advantageous. By the end of 1993, blocking reform poses little risk as the public becomes increasingly fearful of what it has heard about the Clinton plan.

November 21, 2008

Republican Collapse

Josh wonders about two consecutive wave elections, for the same party.  These are as he points out very rare. To have a large number of swing seats fall to one party in one year means there shouldn't be any left for following election, and that some of them should swing back.

Instead, it surged, with the Republicans losing MS-2, Delay's seat and Hastert's seat before the election proper and still more after that.  Nobody predicted 56+1+1 (which still may become 57+1+1) in the Senate in 2006, although people like digby (and myself) were more optimistic than the conventional wisdom.  

Josh wonders about this, which is the key, IMO.

For a brief interlude after the election, it looked like the congressional GOP might move into some sort of quasi-opposition to the president, at least distance themselves significantly from him. If you remember, there was a brief period of equivocation on Iraq. And then, nothing. Within a month or so, it was clear that elected Republicans were doubling down on President Bush, the Iraq War and pretty much everything else. And that decision was reflected in the presidential nominating campaign as well.
Josh wasn't the only person confused by this. I recall, very distinctly, Schumer saying he expected withdrawal from Iraq to receive Republican support by the end of the summer. While this was just one more Friedman unit, the 2006 election had made it clear that the public was very unhappy.  When the Republicans remained in their bloc, and decided they were going to drive their party over a cliff in fealty to Bush, Reid and Schumer were perfectly well pleased.

It seemed crazy that people like Chris Shays and Gordon Smith would risk their seats over an occupation that could be, at best, a foreign policy disaster, one that the public had firmly said they wanted nothing to do with.  The President's popularity was cratering, the undermining of Social Security had failed, and the Republicans could point to not one single success.  It seemed, at the time, that you'd have to be crazy not to start voting against the President if you wanted to keep your seat in a fair number of districts.  Moreso in the Senate, where there were a lot of seats up, immune from gerrymandering.

As one of Josh's reader points out, then came Katrina, which both illustrated and symbolized the Republicans incapacity for governing, at least under this president.  And yet, still, they doubled down.

And still, with their favorability falling to low double digits, the Democrats on the Hill continued to mount feeble protests of "I've fallen down and I can't get up" variety, and let the Republicans control the agenda. Only on issues where there was broad Republican support were bills successful. If the Republicans voted in unanimity, then the bills were killed.

The effect was (and I'm still surprised that it worked) that the Republicans owned every bad thing that happened over the last eight years. People were indeed angry at the Democrats too, as in that link from November 2007 where I also raised this issue, but it's one thing to blame Schumer for Mukasey (and I did, and I do) but Bush nominated him and all the Republicans, from Coleman to Smith voted for him.  

I still don't understand why.  All I can think is that they thought they could suppress enough votes, legally and illegally,  to keep a reasonable number of seats, without having to risk being subject to a primary from the right.   So I guess it's appropriate that Josh Marshall inspired this post. Because it may that when historians look back, they will point to his work in exposing the plans to win the purple states by hook or by crook. Further irony here is that, if this was the case, the blowback was brutal. The response to the problems in 2004 and 2006 was to implement early voting more widely. Early voting is death to the Republican suppression tactics, from the legal (last minute false oppo ad that can't be refuted in time, challenges at the polling place) to the unethical (scaring people into thinking they'll be arrested) to the illegal (phone-jamming, filing false charges) to the beyond reprehensible (putting a governor in jail for having the temerity to win.

Conservative Principles

DemfromCT points me to Russ Douthat, who tries to make an argument about restoring conservativism :

This problem is not, repeat not, a matter of conservatives needing to abandon their core convictions in order to win elections, as right-of-center reformers are often accused of doing. Rather, it's a matter of conservatives needing to apply their core convictions to questions like "how do we mitigate the worst effects of climate change?" and "how do we modernize our infrastructure?" and "how do we encourage excellence and competition within our public school bureaucracy?" instead of just letting liberals completely monopolize these debates, while the Right talks about porkbusting and not much else.
This attempt to rekindle the faith is touching. But it's no longer possible to sustain the set of lies that conservatives have been telling about their core principles.   The mythological conservative, firm believer in market principles and their application to sound policy formation demonstrably does not exist.  The people who believe that sort of thing are called economists, and reside all across the ideological spectrum, although with their reflexive belief in market processes generally lean somewhat to the right of center.  Sometimes their ideas are hijacked by conservatives; that's pretty much what AEI is about. But when they, say, advocate a voucher system of education, that is no more about a voucher system for education as is an anti-abortion  stance about abortion.  The former is about breaking the teachers unions. The latter is about the central goal of the conservative program: the restoration of the supremacy of the white (straight) male.  

We went through a version of this during the Reagan administration, when the manager of the Office of Management and Budget styled himself a libertarian.  The oxymoronic nature of that stylization seemed to escape most observers, but there it was.

At this point, though, it's impossible to do anything other than echo Chico Marx: "Who you gonna believe? Me? Or your own lying eyes?"  Given the keys to the castle, the sports car, not to mention the liquor cabinet, conservatives have demonstrated that they are, if anything, the polar opposite of principles they espouse when out of power.  That it's Douthat's generation's turn is his misfortune, because this time, they held power for long enough to expose that these conservative principles are shams.

The policy direction under not merely Republican control, but conservative Republican control--Inhofe, not Snowe, Delay, not Shays--has been toward centralization of political power in the executive, centralization of economic power in the hands of a large corporations, at the expense of small businesses, and a rapid growth in government engaged essentially in income transfers from households to corporate management and shareholders. These transfers take various forms: direct subsidy as with big agribusiness,  price hikes through   monopolies create by patent and copyright  law as with big media and big pharma, replacement of civil servants and soldiers with private contractors like Blackwater and Verizon and, of course, the socialization of any losses--financial or environmental--that unfortunately happen from time to time.

Ths authoritarian program exists in a framework of unreality. Douthat mentions climate change as something that conservatives need to deal with using market mechanisms. This is, of course, what those economists I mentioned above recommend.  But this is not what modern conservatives recommend. They recommend denial.  This denial extends across a remarkable swath of reality, to the point that a candidate for Vice President's family planning practice consisted of recommending abstience with crossed fingers, and celebrating any teenaged, unwed  pregnancy that results.  This denial of reality in the realm of the individual household, "the castle" consists of advocating the state impose these fantasies onto non-compliant individuals.   This is not hypothetical. Whenever possible they act to impose their fantastic beliefs onto their fellow citizens, as in North Dakota and its abortion law, in the president's executive order defining a 4 cell blastocyst as a child or with the insistence that the state purposely teach other people's children outright falsehoods.

That is, the answer to Douthat's three questions is, "They don't."  They don't believe in climate change. They don't believe in maintaining infrastructure.  They don't believe in better public education.

Douthat can say that he believes in these things. But American conservatives do not.  Republicans do not.  He really needs to get his nose out of The Fountainhead and look around, because if he believes this stuff, he is not a conservative.

November 20, 2008

Answering JMM

It's a question worth considering in very real terms. How much would things be different if Barack Obama had been sworn in on November 5th?
It would be worse. Time is needed to make these transitions. We've made them earlier as transportation and communication technology has improved.

There's a tendency to focus on the shit that is happening now, is breathing hard, and is getting covered.  But it's a lot better to follow Obama's model, with a longer view.

It's funny. Since Ford, he's our JockEst president.  He enjoys team sports, and plays at least one well.  One thing that you do team sports, is a commitment to the common goal.  There's a lot of "Team of Rivals" dissin' out there. But every basketball team is  a team of rivals. Working together for a common cause.

Obama needs to build a team. They will, in the event, be unhappy with their minutes. But that's the way it goes. Speeding the transition would make it harder to define roles, and build the team.

November 18, 2008

Homer? Or Some Other Guy With the Same Name?

Michael Scherer pointing out Mike Huckabee's failure to get some biblical detail right inspired this, and I can't just leave it in a comment thread that nobody is gonna read. Better to put it here for people to not read, I figure.

This stuff really makes  me laugh. Getting the details of things that aren't true, or real, but have been written down, right.

It was like reading the piece in the WSJ over the weekend about the Professor of Islam  in Germany who was questioning the existence of an actual guy named Mohamed. Some other academic  noted that the evidence for an actual guy named Jesus was a heckuva lot more tenuous, so the Mohamed thing was looking pretty good to him.

"Low bar,"  I said to myself. And it doesn't matter, really, because there are any number of details, like God coming down and dictating the thing to him that are obviously not true. There are so many details attributed to the figure that are clearly false that it doesn't really matter if the guy was a guy or is a composite of  several guys, or whether there is some guy who one could generally say was the guy to whom (thanks Ben,  playing KO quoting Churchill, caught that trailing preposition) they attribute all this not true stuff.

And then I mentioned this to someone else, and SHE said "Low bar on the Jesus thing? What about the God evidence? Goodness knows there isn't any of that.  Not to mention a fair amount to the contrary."

November 11, 2008


It's odd that with the election over, and Lieberman's traitorous ways having had no tangible effect, that it somehow makes perfect sense to me that Reid and Obama are more concerned about how many noses than they can count in the next year than with whom was standing beside McCain on platforms this year.  Nobody has ticked me off more.  Lamont would have been a great Democratic senator, and, instead, we have, well, Lieberman.  As they say, more, better Democrats is what is needed,  and Lieberman is neither.

So I understand why people are angry about this.  But I ask those people to consider how they would react if Snowe or Collins (pro-choice, New Englanders who supported McCain but have the most liberal Republican voting records on the National Journal scorecard) switched parties.  Would they say no, we don't want your kind?

November 7, 2008

New Rule

Only pundits who excoriated Bush for appointing a divisive, ideological cabinet in 2000 is permitted to suggest that Obama should appoint a bipartisan cabinet.

Even that's a stretch; Bush lost the popular vote, almost certainly had more Floridians vote against him than for him, and was put in office in the worst way since Adams in 1824 (yes, worse than Hayes in 1876).  But at least it would cut down on the number of them.

BoBo Variations

David Brooks is concerned today.

Only 17 percent of Americans trust the government to do the right thing most or all of the time, according to an October New York Times/CBS News poll.

So, therefore, the most intrusive elements of government, domestic spying, suspension of habeus corpus, secret executive orders, and the suspension of other Constitutional protections against untrustworthy government should be immediately revoked upon Obama's inauguration?


So the members of my dream Obama administration understand that they cannot impose an ideological program the country does not accept. New presidents in 1932 and 1964 could presuppose a basic level of trust in government. But today, as Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution observes, the new president is going to have to build that trust deliberately and step by step.

Ah.  So despite a decade of polling that shows broad support for a greater role in government in providing health care, education, and other social services, the case has not been made.  Moreover,  after two consecutive elections reject and repudiate, in no uncertain terms,  the use of the Federal tax, regulatory and contracting apparatus to transfer income from poor to rich,  any change must be taken deliberately.

What's the best way?

That means there won’t just be a few token liberal Republicans in marginal jobs. There will be people like Robert Gates at Defense and Ray LaHood, Stuart Butler, Diane Ravitch, Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Jim Talent at other important jobs.

The Obama administration of my dreams will insist that Congressional Democrats reinstate bipartisan conference committees. They’ll invite G.O.P. leaders to the White House for real meetings and then re-invite them, even if they give hostile press conferences on the White House driveway.

Yep, the right way to restore trust in the US government is to reinstate the people who have just been repudiated, to the sounds of spontaneous cheers throughout the country--throughout the world for that matter.  The most important step  to be taken in a country where the government is not trusted to do its job is to put back into power the people who invaded Iraq and couldn't get around to dealing with Katrina, who have presided over the looting of the Treasury,  and the destruction of the US credit marketplace.

Yeah. that's the ticket.  Even if they give hostile press conferences after playing a significant policy-making role in a new bipartisan administration.  That was the "bipartisanship" thing that just a few months ago was synonymous with "date rape."

They’ll do things conservatives disagree with, but they’ll also show that they’re not toadies of the liberal interest groups. They’ll insist on merit pay and preserving No Child Left Behind’s accountability standards, no matter what the teachers’ unions say. They’ll postpone contentious fights on things like card check legislation.

Most of all, they’ll take significant action on the problems facing the country without causing a mass freak-out among voters to the right of Nancy Pelosi.

That is, defense spending is off the table.   And, yes, of course we can't freak out the country by ending the Cold War occupation of Germany, in the light of the fall of the Berlin Wall a generation ago and Japan, in light of the Chinese government holding markers on a good chunk of the American economy.  (You don't knock off folks who owe you money.)

And then, Obama will turn the line item veto over to a Blue Dog Congressman:

My dream administration will announce a Budget Rebalancing Initiative. Somebody like Representative Jim Cooper would go through the budget and take out the programs and tax expenditures that don’t work. “If we have no spending cuts, then we’re saying government is perfect. Nobody believes that,” Cooper says

Yep. That's the kind of change BoBo believes in.