Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Canadian Tax Cut Stupidity

Conservatives drive Stephen Gordon to shrillness:

Worthwhile Canadian Initiative: The federal government's proposed tax cuts are just as stupid as we'd feared: The federal government's proposed tax cuts are just as stupid as we'd feared

Sigh. The Conservatives set out an Economic Statement this afternoon, and it includes a measure to further reduce the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from 6% to 5%. From this, I infer that the Conservative government is willfully stupid:

* Reducing the GST is bad economics. Just ask anyone who has given any thought to the matter.
* Reducing the GST is bad - or at best, pointless - politics. Just ask voters.

Now, I can understand that the Conservatives are in the business of cutting taxes. But the intelligent way of implementing that agenda involves cutting stupid taxes and keeping (or even increasing) smart taxes. Sadly, that doesn't seem to be the Conservative way of implementing this agenda. According to Table A.1 on this page, the GST cut accounts for over 60% of the reduction in taxes over the next five years. Stupid, stupid, et cetera.

Okay, yes, they are accelerating the previously-announced rate at which the federal government would be reducing corporate taxes (Table A.2 from the same page), and that's a good thing. But it's not enough to dispel the odour of ideologically-driven amateurism.


Shrill Laffering

This is relatively shrill, but not shrill enough:

Economist's View: A Convenient Lie: As soon as you read this from Pete Du Pont:

Inconvenient Tax Truths: Al Gore believes global warming is "an inconvenient truth." Here are some economic truths that America's liberal leadership finds too inconvenient to support. ... Tax rate reductions increase tax revenues. This truth has been proved at both state and federal levels, including by President Bush's 2003 tax cuts on income, capital gains and dividends. Those reductions have raised federal tax receipts by $785 billion.

There's no need to read any further, he's revealed himself (yet again) as a political hack. The saddest part is that some people actually believe these lies.

It's also too bad that under Rupert Murdoch the Wall Street Journal's editorial page has continued to print these lies to support an ideology, lies that helped to push through tax cuts that did not raise revenues by $785 billion or at all, but instead lowered revenues by hundreds of billions of dollars according to Congressional Budget Office estimates.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

And Matthew Yglesias and Dave Roberts Are the Light-Bringers of the Shrill!

Matthew writes, apropos of French President Sarkozy's embrace of carbon taxes:

Matthew Yglesias: Sarkozy Hearts Carbon Tax: French President Nicholas Sarkozy calls for a carbon tax for France. Dave Roberts notes: "U.S. right-wingers like to use Sarkozy as a rhetorical bludgeon, showing that Europe is moving toward the U.S. rather than vice versa. I wonder if this will cause any of their little pea brains to short-circuit." Probably not. The capacity to sustain massive cognitive dissonance is part of the job.

Atrios Is God-Hero of the Shrill!

Atrios reminds us of one of Joe Klein's finest hours:

Eschaton: **Arab Spring:** Oh God I'd forgotten about this one.

One can only imagine the Republican wrath and utter ridicule--the Rush Limbaugh fulminations-—if, say, John Kerry had proposed a similar policy: Let's pin our Middle East hopes on the statesmanship of Hizballah and Hamas. But that is where the democratic idealism of the Bush Doctrine has led us. If the President turns out to be right—and let's hope he is—a century's worth of woolly-headed liberal dreamers will be vindicated. And he will surely deserve that woolliest of all peace prizes, the Nobel...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Columnists of America Drive Reed Hundt Shrill!

Positively unearthly in its shrillness:

No I can't post the links | TPMCafe: Because I don't really want you to have to read these pieces in the opinion pages du jour: George Will's sentences amount to euthanasia by reading; David Broder's rhapsody about informed choice of doctors misses only the enormous point that you can't choose what you can't pay for; Tom Friedman's applause for hybrid taxis ought to be a condemnation of Detroit and not praise of a mayor who in any case has failed to do anything significant to green New York in terms of building materials and energy generation, while California is showing the real way forward. And the media's inability to report candidly what's really going on in Congress or agencies is reaching new depths.

I know about wireless broadband issues, by study and experience, and so I know Judy Chevalier's piece in the New York Times today is informed, analytically sound, and informative. What a startling contrast to the above. The question begged is:

Why don't all newspapers use folks like Professor Chevalier, a brilliant economist at the Yale School of Management? As Paul Krugman also demonstrates, there are in the academy, analytically brilliant, very well-prepared, and extraordinarily literate people who are able and willing to write opinion pieces to the length and timing and relevance standards of newspapers. Why should any publisher want misinformed, verbally dull, and dangerously ignorant people like Broder and Will to take the ink away from them? And no, this isn't a partisan point. Goodness knows, the conservative stance is endemic to most economists on many issues. But anyone should rather hear George Mason or Chicago economists on any topic rather than Broder or Will on their chosen themes.

Of course, Homer nodded occasionally and the academy can betray one. For instance, David Kennedy's astonishingly stupid attack on Paul Krugman makes me doubt whether the former's history of the Depression was accurate.

The Washington Post Drives Glenn Greenwald Shrill!

It is indeed a wonder that they can face themselves in the mirror every morning:

Glenn Greenwald - Political Blogs and Opinions - Salon: Fred Hiatt's concern over "costly litigation" for AT&T and Verizon: Of all the dumb and dishonest arguments in favor of telecom amnesty -- and there are many -- the dumbest and most dishonest is that it is unfair to subject telecoms to the "high costs" of defending against these lawsuits. It should come as no surprise, then, that this is the principal argument The Washington Post's Fred Hiatt advances today in his latest call for telecom amnesty:

As we have said, we do not believe that these companies should be held hostage to costly litigation in what is essentially a complaint about administration activities.

In 2005, the total revenue of Verizon -- from telephone services alone -- was $75 billion. ATT's total 2006 revenue was $63 billion. Whatever the "costs" of defending these lawsuits are, it is a minscule -- really undetectable -- amount to these companies. Whatever the telecoms' motives are in wanting amnesty for their lawbreaking, being relieved from "costly litigation" has nothing to do with it. Trite pseudo-populist rhetoric about the "high costs" of litigation might work when it comes to lawsuits against small businesses or individuals.... [T]elecom lawsuits could be "costly" if telecoms are found -- without any good faith basis -- to have broken the law and/or violated the constitutional rights of their customers. But to claim that telecoms like AT&T or Verizon -- whose revenues are measured in the tens of billions of dollars -- care in the slightest about "litigation costs" from a single set of lawsuits is just preposterous, really just a stupid thing to say. These telecoms have been participating in this "costly litigation" for the last two years and they seem to be managing...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Condi Rice Has Driven Somebody--I Am Not Sure Who--Shrill!

This is a classic of its kind:

Mid Wife To Our Times (Updated 21-10-07) | Stop The Spirit of Zossen 2.0: Cher Condi, recall, past her ‘Warrior Princess’ days, told us in 2006 that we are seeing the ‘birth pangs’ of a new Middle East. This was after she told us that politics from above could and would create a New Democratic Man/Woman in the region. All quietly forgotten today by her cheerleaders at a couple of think tanks and a few prominent blogs that thrive on gossip and factoids dropped like table scraps to them.

Like any good survivor, she now pretends she was always against Cheney and the Neocons. Yet if she is truly the World’s 4th Most Powerful Woman and can’t even persuade Tom Lantos to chill on a genocide resolution (and aren’t Neocons supposed to be in favor of declaring bold truths?), what is she good for? So many are now willing to set her up as the martyr who Stood Against Cheney...

Jonah Goldberg Drives Chet Scoville into Shrillness!

This is ugly: > Shakesville : First, you'll recall, Jonah Goldberg's unbook was to be entitled Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation from Mussolini to Hillary Clinton, and was to have been released sometime during the late Middle Ages. >Then, he switched the date to December 2007, and re-titled it Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation from Hegel to Whole Foods. But there were two problems with this: one, Whole Foods is owned by a libertarian not a liberal, and two, Hegel's too hard for Jonah to read -- also, not a fascist of any description. But personally, I was kind of bummed that Jonah had dropped Mussolini from the subtitle, for reasons you'll see in a moment. >But now, the new release date is to be early next year, and the new new re-re-title is to be Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. Well, he's dropped the "totalitarian temptation" thing, but now of course he faces a new problem. Even if you think Mussolini was a member of the "left" (and he wasn't), he was certainly and unambiguously never a member of the American left, or the American anything. But who cares? Mussolini's back in, which means I get to throw this in Goldberg's face repeatedly, just as I'd hoped to: >>Fascism is definitely and absolutely opposed to the doctrines of liberalism, both in the political and economic sphere. -- Benito Mussolini, The Doctrine of Fascism >Let me encourage lots of people to do the same. >As an added bonus, you might want to look at the list of Amazon tags to the book that Cathie from Canada found, including: >>propaganda (37) missed deadlines (26) fairytales for simple people (24) wingnut welfare (23) unintentional comedy (20) banged out by howler monkeys (19) what a boat load of crap (17) attend to luciannes bunions (13) chickenhawk (12) libburluls are stoopit (6)... >Priceless.

Ben Stein Drives Felix Salmon into Shrillness

It is a miracle of rare device:

Finance Blog - Market Movers by Felix Salmon: Ben Stein Watch: October 21, 2007 - Stein starts off by giving us "the good news" about the economy. (Actually, he starts off by giving us the good news about Taco Bell, which is that its Taco Supreme is tasty. So I guess if you're having your house foreclosed upon, you know where to go.) This good news consists of five things. The first is an eternal verity: "almost all mortgages are not in default".

Does Stein have a clue how stupid this is? If you get a mortgage, one of two things tends to happen: you either pay it down, or you don't. If you pay it down, then you are not in default. If you don't, then eventually the bank forecloses on you, and the mortgage isn't a mortgage any more. So at any given point in time, the vast majority of mortgages are not going to be in default. Which doesn't mean that a lot of the more recent ones won't go into default when they reset, of course.

Stein's second piece of good news has been true for decades: "almost all workers in the labor force who care to work are not unemployed". (But note the qualifier in there.) And the third is false: Stein says that homeownership rates are at all-time highs. But the second-quarter data put homeownership rates at 68.2%, down from 68.7% in the second quarter last year; the peak actually came in 2004.

The fourth piece of good news is that the Dow is doing well. I'll let Dean Baker handle that one. And the fifth is that junk bonds haven't gapped out a lot – something which is anybody holding speculative-grade mortgage-backed securities will be overjoyed to know. (Oh, wait, Stein has managed to find a junk-bond index which doesn't include asset-backed securities, which is where all the trouble has been. Well, apparently the market in $10 million New York City condos has never been hotter either. Does that mean house prices aren't falling?)

Stein's main point is that reality is fine; it's just the media which is making things look bad. "Newspapers (which often sell on fear, not on fact) talk frequently about a mortgage freeze," he says. Although if you do a Google News search on "mortgage freeze", you find exactly one newspaper article: this one, by Stein. Meanwhile, he says, and I swear I am not making this up, "there is still a long waiting list for Bentleys in Beverly Hills". Well in that case there couldn't possibly be a housing crisis!

Senator Dodd Is Shrill!

Senator Dodd on the rule of law, via Eschaton:

Eschaton: Feeling the Doddmania: Caught most of this speech earlier.

Mr. President, for six years, this President has demonstrated time and time again that he doesn’t respect the role of Congress nor does he respect the rule of law. Every six years as United States Senators we take the oath office to uphold the Constitution. Our colleagues on the House side take that oath every two years. That is important. For six years this President has used scare tactics to prevent the Congress from reining in his abuse of authority.

A case and point is the current direction this body appears to be headed as we prepare to reform and extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Many of the unprecedented rollbacks to the rule of law by this Administration have been made in the name of national security. The Bush Administration has relentlessly focused our nation’s resources and manpower on a war of choice in Iraq. That ill conceived war has broken our military, squandered resources and emboldened our enemies. The President’s wholesale disregard of the rule of law has compounded the damage done in Iraq and has made our nation less secure and as a direct consequence of these acts, we are less secure, more vulnerable and more isolated in the world.

Consider the scandal at Abu Ghraib – where Iraqi prisoners were subjected to inhumane and humiliating acts by U.S. personnel charged with guarding them. Consider Guantanamo Bay. Rather than helping to protect the nation, the prisons at Guantanamo Bay have instead become the very symbol for our weakened moral standing in the world. Consider the secret prisons run by the CIA and the practice of extraordinary rendition that allows them to evade U.S. law regarding torture. Consider the shameful actions of our outgoing Attorney General who politicized prosecutions – who was more committed to serving the President who appointed him than the laws he had sworn to uphold. And consider, of course, the Military Commissions Act – a law that allows evidence obtained through torture to be admitted into evidence. It denies individuals the right to counsel. It denies them the right to invoke the Geneva Conventions. And it denies them the single most important and effective safeguard of liberty man has known – the right of habeas corpus, permitting prisoners to be brought before a court to determine whether their detainment is lawful. Warrantless wiretapping, torture – the list goes on...

Whoever you support, rewarding good behavior is always wise.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The WSJ's Take on Inequality Drives Jonathan Chait Shrill!

A correspondent writes:

Here is Chait's Alan Reynolds profile from January of this year in its full glory:

Boy, is he shrill!

Flat-Earth economics.

If there is one trend in American life that most irks economic conservatives, it is probably rising inequality. It's not the inequality itself that bothers them, as most will happily admit. It is the perception of inequality and, worse, the constant discussion ofinequality that is so irritating. It offends their view of capitalism, helps justify all sorts of nefarious government interventions, and makes the conservative economic agenda (most of which tends toincrease inequality) appear unfair. They would very much like for itnot to be true. Failing that, they would like for the public not tobelieve that it's true--or, at the very least, not to be sure whetherit is true or not. This is where Alan Reynolds comes in.

A manager at J.C. Penney who attended graduate school at night, Reynolds was plucked from obscurity by William F. Buckley in the 1960s after writing a few pieces for The National Review. (He's still "acouple of classes" short of his masters degree in economics.) He later went to the conservative Hudson Institute and from there made his wayto the Cato Institute, where he is now a senior fellow. From this perch, and as a syndicated columnist, Reynolds offers up conventionals upply-side economic views; but his specialty is denying that incomeinequality has grown. He has been at this task for almost two decades,and, as the economic consensus that inequality is increasing has grownstronger and stronger, so, too, has his importance to the right.

Reynolds's crucial role within the conservative movement was on fulldisplay at a packed-house Cato forum last week in which he defended a paper--titled "Has U.S. Income Inequality Really Increased?"--hep ublished earlier this month and summarized in a much-discussed WallStreet Journal op-ed. Reynolds was introduced by Chris Edwards, the director of tax policy studies at Cato, who began by noting that it is a matter of opinion whether income inequality matters at all. (In hisopinion, it doesn't.) Nonetheless, he suggested, "Economists andreporters need to be extremely careful in looking at trends in incomestatistics over time. All sources of income data have various quirks and shortcomings." In other words, conservatives aren't sure whetherinequality is rising, and they don't really care if it is. Theirprimary concern is that newspapers treat the question as a matter ofdispute rather than a settled fact.

If this sounds like the conservative stance on global warming orevolution, it shouldn't come as a surprise. Like those two issues, theexistence of rising inequality is beyond dispute among academics whostudy it. This applies even to conservative economists with strongRepublican pedigrees. (Harvard economist and former Reagan adviserMartin Feldstein: "There has no doubt been a relatively greaterincrease in higher incomes in recent years in the United States."Columbia's R. Glenn Hubbard, a Bush alum: "We have an issue withemerging inequality in the country.") And so the ambition of the conservative counterestablishment in these areas is not to overturn the scholarly consensus but simply to make the topic appear socomplicated that laypeople and the press don't know what to believe.

And the science of measuring inequality, like most sciences, issubject to complicating details. The traditional method of measuringinequality has been to examine data from the Census Bureau. Unfortunately, census data isn't very good at detecting shifts amongthe uppermost slice of the very rich, because it has historically grouped high incomes into broad categories--say, over $999,999. So, in the last few years, economists Thomas Piketty of the École NormaleSupérieure and Emmanuel Saez of the University of California,Berkeley, have started looking instead at tax returns, which haveshown explosive income growth among the top 1 percent of tax-filers compared with everyone else. Last spring, they published a paper titled "The Evolution of Top Incomes: A Historical and International Perspective," which offered some startling findings: Since 1980, theshare of income accruing to the highest-earning 1 percent of U.S. taxreturns doubled, the share of the top one-tenth of 1 percent tripled,and the share of the top one-hundredth of 1 percent quadrupled. Theirresearch was widely quoted in places like The Economist and The WallStreet Journal. Greg Mankiw, a former Bush economist, has called thestudy "very solid empirical work."

That was Reynolds's cue to spring into action. In his Journal op-ed,Reynolds lists a series of potential flaws in the Piketty-Saez data.Most of the complaints are simply picayune details. He writes, forinstance, that "not everyone files a tax return, not all income istaxable (e.g., municipal bonds), and not every taxpayer tells thecomplete truth about his or her income." All these points are trueenough. But is there any reason to think they would change the overallpicture very much? Not really, unless you think undeclared earningsand municipal bonds are a huge and growing share of our income andthat the rich are substantially less likely than the rest of us tocheat on their taxes or own municipal bonds.>

And some of Reynolds's critiques are simply mistaken. For example, heargues that Piketty and Saez's data does not account for the massiverise of tax-sheltered pensions, such as 401(k) plans, which are"invisible in tax return data." Because 401(k) plans are now commonamong middle-class earners, tax returns miss a huge source of theirwealth and thus make them look misleadingly poor. This sounds sensibleenough, but it is wrong on several levels. 401(k)s didn't just appearout of nowhere; they mostly replaced defined benefit pensions. And,like the old pensions, 401(k)s do appear on tax returns when theaccounts are withdrawn. On top of that, economists think most tax-favored assets are concentrated in the hands of the rich anyway, so,even if Reynolds were right about tax returns, it would very likelymake inequality look even worse.

But whether the missing data would make inequality look worse orbetter is really beside the point. Reynolds's role is merely to pointout that the data is imperfect. The skeptic challenging the expertconsensus must be fluent enough in the language of the experts tonibble away at their data. (The evolution skeptic can find holes inthe fossil record; the global-warming skeptic can find periods ofglobal cooling.) But he need not--indeed, he must not--be fluentenough to assimilate all the data himself into a coherent alternativeexplanation. His point is that the truth is unknowable.

You might suppose that somebody in Reynolds's position would do everything he could to mask his own ideological preferences in order to lend credibility to his research. But Reynolds is completely upfront about his beliefs, which are on display in the weekly op-edcolumns he churns out. He is a libertarian conservative of the"taxation is theft" variety. "Aside from government subsidies andtransfer payments, income is not 'distributed' at all," he wrote lastyear in a typical passage. "Most income is either earned or stolen. Ifsome group's income was earned by legitimate means, then it is theirincome, not 'ours.'" (So, for instance, if a soldier loses his legs inbattle and is forced to subsist on disability checks from thegovernment, his income is stolen. If, on the other hand, a wealthyheir hires an economist to crank out tracts persuading the public toprotect his fortune from taxation, that economist's income is earned.)

This is not a slip-up. Introducing ideology into a debate is one ofthe think-tank hack's strongest weapons. It demystifies a complicatedissue, moving it from the realm of science into the realm of politics.The think-tank hack confesses he has his biases but then claims thathis opponents in academia or government do, too. Evolution is thesecularist science establishment's campaign to discredit religion;global warming is being pushed by regulators who would gain enormouspower from new pollution controls; et cetera.

Since the goal is not winning these debates but merely achievingsymmetry, the hack's most effective technique can be taking theaccusation that would seem to apply to him and hurling it at hisopponents. "The politically correct yet factually incorrect claim thatthe top 1 [percent] earns 16 [percent] of personal income appears tofill a psychological rather than logical need," Reynolds writes in theJournal. "Some economists seem ready and willing to supply whatever isdemanded." So, while you might think Reynolds is a hack mining thedata for results that would conform to his political preferences, hehas already made the same charge against the other side. Who can tellwho's right?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Kevin Drum Is Puzzled by Michael Kinsley

Kevin Drum writes:

The Washington Monthly: A FAVOR....Can someone please read this Michael Kinsley column about the Alternative Minimum Tax (exciting!) and tell me what his point is? I genuinely can't figure it out.

Is he actually in favor of jettisoning the current tax code and replacing it wholesale with the AMT? He sort of implies this but doesn't really say so. Nor does he make even an attempt to figure out what effect this would have on tax revenue, even though a few paragraphs earlier he was mocking Republicans who take the same attitude toward eliminating the AMT. Likewise, in one paragraph he bemoans Bush's tax cuts for the rich, and in the next he claims that the AMT is pretty good because it "resembles the 'flat tax' of many reformers' dreams." So what's going on here? Is he in favor of more progressivity or more flatness?

Or is he just rambling without any real point to make? Happens to the best of us, I guess.

It's more serious than having to write a column and not having an idea. It's the dread pointless contrarian snark disease.

Bush Drives Morton Kondracke Shrill

Thus demonstrating that although Morton Kondracke is largely he is not totally brain-dead--yet:

a href="">Think Progress » Fox News anchor slams Bush’s SCHIP double standard.: Fox News anchor slams Bush’s SCHIP double standard. Yesterday, on Fox News’ All Star Panel, conservative Roll Call editor Mort Kondracke slammed President Bush’s SCHIP “compromise,” which “cut[s] off about a million children from the rolls.” Kondracke called Bush out on making a prominent 2004 campaign promise to expand children’s health insurance:

You have George Bush, who promised in 2004 at the Republican National Convention that he was going to cover millions of children who were not covered by SCHIP if he was reelected? And what does he do? He proposes a bill that would result in almost a million kids losing their coverage from the level it’s at. It’s no wonder Bush’s approval ratings is in the 30’s.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Littlest Swiftboat

Ana Marie has a shrill moment:

The Littlest Swiftboat - Swampland - TIME: has gotten heavily involved in trying to save SCHIP, and they're having a series of rallies in support of the measure tomorrow, including one right on the Hill at 5. It will feature an appearance, says a press release, by "two and a half year old Bethany whose life was saved by surgery her family wouldn’t have been able to afford without S-CHIP."

Of course, I read on some conservative blog that Bethany has at least two dollies. TWO! And what about that "tea party," she held, huh? HOW CAN THEY NOT AFFORD HEALTH CARE YET STILL AFFORD INVISIBLE PRETEND TEA!?!?!?!?!
Her story is presented in this video; I leave it to others to Google how much her adorable red outfit costs and to determine if frolicking by the ocean is something reserved for the upper middle class:

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Frost Affair Has Driven John Cole Shrill!

He is leaving the Republican Party:

When Rhetoric Meets Reality: I was talking to Tim via AOL IM, and I decided it was probably worthwhile to bring this up for everyone. One of the things that is so surprising (for me, at least) about the whole Graeme Frost episode is that rather than make their case against this program with their vicious assault against this family, they Malkin/Freeper/Limbaugh brigade are doing just the opposite. Rather than expose this family as a bunch of frauds and lazy slackers and welfare queens, they are making the family’s case.

If you look through this family’s dossier, it appears they are doing everything Republicans say they should be doing- hell, their story is almost what you would consider a checklist for good, red-blooded American Republican voters: they own their own business, they pay their taxes, they are still in a committed relationship and are raising their kids, they eschewed public education and are doing what they have to do to get them into Private schools, they are part of the American dream of home ownership that Republicans have been pointing to in the past two administrations as proof of the health of the economy, and so on.

In short, they are a white, lower-middle-class, committed family, who is doing EVERYTHING the GOP Kultur Kops would have you believe people should be doing. They aren’t gay. They aren’t divorced. They didn’t abort their children. They aren’t drug addicts or welfare queens. They are property owners, entrepeneurs, taxpayers, and hard-working Americans. I bet nine times out of ten in past elections, if you handed this resume to a pollster, they would think you were discussing the prototypical Republican voter. Hell, the only thing missing from this equation is membership to a church and an irrational fear of Muslims and you HAVE the prototypical Bush voter.

They are, however, not without fault. They are unable to afford insurance through normal means (and now that they have pre-existing conditions, probably couldn’t get traditional insurance anyway), and managed to get several of their family members injured in a traumatic accident. And, it appears, those are the big blind spots for compassionate conservatism. That, and the real big sin--allowing themselves to advocate for a policy that the Decider was going to veto. Here it is, so you can see their grievous sin that requires they be destroyed:

“Hi, my name is Graeme Frost. I’m 12 years old and I live in Baltimore, Maryland. Most kids my age probably haven’t heard of CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program. But I know all about it, because if it weren’t for CHIP, I might not be here today.

“CHIP is a law the government made to help families like mine afford healthcare for their kids. Three years ago, my family was in a really bad car accident. My younger sister Gemma and I were both hurt. I was in a coma for a week and couldn’t eat or stand up or even talk at first. My sister was even worse. I was in the hospital for five-and-a-half months and I needed a big surgery. For a long time after that, I had to go to physical therapy after school to get stronger. But even though I was hurt badly, I was really lucky. My sister and I both were.

“My parents work really hard and always make sure my sister and I have everything we need, but the hospital bills were huge. We got the help we needed because we had health insurance for us through the CHIP program.

“But there are millions of kids out there who don’t have CHIP, and they wouldn’t get the care that my sister and I did if they got hurt. Their parents might have to sell their cars or their houses, or they might not be able to pay for hospital bills at all.

“Now I’m back to school. One of my vocal chords is paralyzed so I don’t talk the same way I used to. And I can’t walk or run as fast as I did. The doctors say I can’t play football any more, but I might still be able to be a coach. I’m just happy to be back with my friends.

“I don’t know why President Bush wants to stop kids who really need help from getting CHIP. All I know is I have some really good doctors. They took great care of me when I was sick, and I’m glad I could see them because of the Children’s Health Program.

“I just hope the President will listen to my story and help other kids to be as lucky as me. This is Graeme Frost, and this has been the Weekly Democratic Radio address. Thanks for listening.”

Pretty strong stuff. I can see why this rabid dog needs to be put down with the full force of the wingnutosphere. And it just goes downhill from there. We learn from our intrepid “reporters” on the right that $45,000 is now rich, which is news to me and everyone else who remember mocking Democrats when they tried to claim $100k combined income was considered rich. You righties do remember that, don’t you?

At any rate, let’s look at some of the pithy advice offered from the right for how the Frost family should deal with millions of dollars of medical bills:

I think the property was valued at around $225,000. I dunno, I have no sympathy for them. Looks like they have more than enough money for luxuries they won’t sacrifice, yet they expect everyone else to sacrifice for them. My family had to sell our house because we couldn’t afford to keep it, have one used minivan and a clunker my husband uses to get back and forth to work, and until this past weekend we didn’t have a television because it was a luxury we couldn’t justify spending on. No private schools for my 3 kids- can’t even afford daycare. Yet we manage to afford health insurance, keep our rental home comfy, and have food on the table. I’m content with what I have and certainly don’t want anyone else paying for what I can afford, after cutting out the luxuries.


15 years ago, when my then-wife and I discovered we were going to have a child – I had a job with no health insurance. I changed jobs – period. I was stupid and willing to go without insurance for myself – but with my child there was no way I was going to risk it. These parents have the same opportunity. They chose not to find jobs that offered health insurance – and they chose to spend their money elsewhere. Then, when tragedy strikes, they’re held up as models of “what’s wrong with this country”. Sorry – but they should be held up as models of “What’s wrong with many Americans”.

My bad- they don’t have any advice other than “SUCKS TO BE YOU” or “SELL YOUR HOUSE” or “GET ANOTHER JOB.” Because, as we all know, the hallmark of responsibility is making your children homeless so they can maybe get healthcare. Nobody even pointed to the numerous charities that we conservatives are supposed to expect to fill the gap so the government doesn’t have to pay for things. Instead, it was taunts, catcalls, contempt, and jealousy (because these folks are in SUCH an enviable situation).

simply can not believe this is what the Republican party has become. I just can’t. It just makes me sick to think all those years of supporting this party, and this is what it has become. Even if you don’t like the S-Chip expansion, it is hard to deny what Republicans are- a bunch of bitter, nasty, petty, snarling, sneering, vicious thugs, peering through people’s windows so they can make fun of their misfortune.

I’m registering Independent tomorrow.

* Update *

They have even pissed off Joe Gandelman, which I didn’t think was possible. The harshest language I have ever seen him use is “drat,” or “shoot.”

Ezra Klein on Andrew Sullivan

Ezra Klein is shrill as he watches Andrew Sullivan pump himself up to support the Republican for president in 2008:

Ezra Klein: Justifications: The lies [of the Clintons] were not as bad as Bush's - WMDs and torture," writes Andrew Sullivan. "But the stakes were much lower. The arrogance and condescension of the healthcare debacle were revealing of a classically bad left-liberal mindset on Senator Clinton's part. She knows best; she always has; everyone else is part of the VRWC."

Check that passivity! As if the "healthcare debacle" was simply a result of the Clintons' "arrogance and condescension," and had nothing to do with a broad, coordinated attempt to smear, misrepresent, and, in Sullivan's own words, "torpedo" their health care plan.

I'm genuinely curious if this recitation of Clinton's personal failings is some sort of barely submerged explanation for why Sullivan published and championed a dishonest, fearmongering article meant to sink the Clinton health care plan -- and it was recognized as such even at the time. Thanks to The Atlantic's open archives, you can read the fairest man in journalism, James Fallows, take it apart in a feature article called "A Triumph of Misinformation." McCaughey's article, which Sullivan commissioned, published, and praised, was, Fallows said, "simply false." Yet Sullivan still touts it in his biography.

So what made that okay? The personal failings of the Clintons? Their "arrogance and condescension?" Sullivan now says that " I absolutely understand that the hard right was out to get [the Clintons]," and boasts that he "gave the hard right hell in the Clinton years." But that's not true. He was their ally, and an important one at that. He published an influential article which trampled the truth in order to sink Clinton's largest initiative -- an article so wrong, and so unfair, that the magazine he edited apologized for running it a decade later. And now he plays the innocent, and angrily attacks Hillary Clinton for acting as if there were, and are, people out to get her, and fears the return of the hateful polarization he helped cultivate.

Sullivan is, to be sure, a much better writer these days, possessed of sounder views and a more sober take on current events. But the past hasn't disappeared, and when talking about the Clintons, he owes his readers a more honest accounting of what took place. Maybe if articles like No Exit hadn't been published, and editors like Sullivan hadn't been out to get the Clintons, the Clintons wouldn't have acted as if articles No Exit were being published, and editors like Sullivan were out to get them.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Wingnuts Drive Ezra Klein 100% Shrill!

All hail Ezra Klein:

Ezra Klein: What Has Happened To The Right?: Something has gone wrong on the Right. Become sick and twisted and tumorous and ugly. To visit Michelle Malkin's cave is to see politics at its most savage, its most ferocious, its most rageful. They say they've spent the past week smearing a child and his family because that child was fair game -- he and his family spoke of their experience receiving health care through the State Children's Health Insurance Program. For this, right wingers travel to their home, insinuate that the family is engaged in large-scale fraud, make threatening phone calls to the family, interrogate the neighbors as to the family's character and financial state.

This is the politics of hate. Screaming, sobbing, inchoate, hate. It would never, not in a million years, occur to me to drive to the home of a Republican small business owner to see if he "really" needed that tax cut. It would never, not in a million years, occur to me to call his family and demand their personal information. It would never occur to me to interrogate his neighbors. It would never occur to me to his smear his children.

The shrieking, atavistic ritual of personal destruction the right roars into every few weeks is something different than politics. It is beyond politics. It was done to Scott Beauchamp, a soldier serving in Iraq. It was done to college students from the University of California, at Santa Cruz. Currently, it is being done to a child and his family. And think of those targets: College students, soldiers, children. It can be done to absolutely anyone.

This is not politics. This is, in symbolism and emotion, a violent group ritual. It is savages tearing at the body of a captured enemy. It is the group reminding itself that the Other is always disingenuous, always evil, always lying, always pitiful and pathetic and grotesque. It is a bonding experience -- the collaborative nature of these hateful orgies proves that much -- in which the enemy is exposed as base and vile and then ripped apart by the community. In that way, it sustains itself, each attack preemptively justifying the next vicious assault, justifying the whole hateful edifice on which their politics rest...

Friday, October 05, 2007

Henry Farrell Is Not Shrill Enough!

Henry Farrell writes that "there’s a good Brooks who seems thoughtful and interesting, and a bad Brooks, who behaves... like a party-line hack"; and that "Brooks-2007 tells us... the notion that George W. Bush and his administration are exemplars of Burkean prudence is an utter nonsense.... [T]here is... [NO] explanation of Brooks’ reticence in 2005 (and indeed before and after) than a willingness to shut up for the cause."

Henry has it wrong. Turn it around. There is no explanation of Brooks-2007's honesty other than his conclusion that the Bush ship is sinking and that rats that want to survive need to jump now.

There is no "good Brooks." There is only a bad Brooks who is clever enough to realize that when Republicans are weak he can gain street cred with people like Henry Farrell by pretending to be a "good Brooks."

Here is Farrell:

Henry Farrell: [T]here’s a good Brooks who seems thoughtful and interesting, and a bad Brooks, who behaves... like a party-line hack.... [S]tart with today’s Brooks column....

[T]he Republican Party has championed the spread of democracy in the Middle East. But the temperamental conservative is suspicious of rapid reform... the Bush administration has operated on the assumption that if you change the political institutions in Iraq, the society will follow. But the Burkean conservative believes that... successful government institutions grow gradually from each nation’s unique network of moral and social restraints.... [T]he G.O.P. has made ideological choices that offend conservatism’s Burkean roots...

This is all obviously true.... But... go back to... June 2005....

the differences between Jeffrey Sachs and George Bush.... The Bush administration has nearly doubled foreign aid, but it will not spend the amounts Sachs wants. The Bush folks, at least when it comes to Africa policy, have learned from centuries of conservative teaching – from Burke to Oakeshott to Hayek – to be skeptical of Sachsian grand plans. Conservatives emphasize that it is a fatal conceit to think we can understand complex societies, or rescue them from above with technocratic planning.... The Bush folks, like most conservatives, tend to emphasize nonmaterial causes of poverty... appreciate the crooked timber of humanity – that human beings are not simply organisms within systems, but have minds and inclinations of their own that usually defy planners....

Brooks-2005 gives an impression of George W. Bush and his administration as people who have learnt the lessons of conservative teaching.... As Brooks-2007 tells us quite straightforwardly, the notion that George W. Bush and his administration are exemplars of Burkean prudence is an utter nonsense. I don’t think that there is any other reasonable explanation of Brooks’ reticence in 2005 (and indeed before and after) than a willingness to shut up for the cause. While it’s all very nice that he’s coming out and saying these things now, it would obviously have been rather more helpful if he had said it, say, back in 2004, when it might conceivably have helped make a difference.

But while saying it back in 2004 might have helped the country, it would have hurt David Brooks: Bush would have been mad at him. So of course he did not do it.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Let's Raise the Chance that Tel Aviv Becomes a Sea of Radioactive Glass!

The New Republic comes thrugh once again, and drives somebody--not me, thank God!--shrill. The somebody looks at Jeffrey Goldberg on Mearsheimer and Walt in the current New Republic: [T]the Israel lobby in this book is an invincible juggernaut... AIPAC resembles SMERSH or THRUSH... "has an almost unchallenged hold on Congress," and therefore on the United States.... And how do we know that AIPAC has a hold on Congress? This is a very good question. For Mearsheimer and Walt are so thoroughly under the spell of their own assertions that they do not seem to notice the circular (or more precisely, agitprop) quality of what they have written. Consider a typical sentence: "The real reason why American politicians are so deferential [to Israel] is the political power of the Israel lobby." That is not a proof. That is what requires a proof.

And wonders if Mearsheimer and Walt might not be relying on Jeffrey Goldberg in the New Yorker: AIPAC is a leviathan among lobbies, as influential in its sphere as the National Rifle Association and the American Association of Retired Persons are in theirs, although it is, by comparison, much smaller.... AIPAC is unique in the top tier of lobbies because its concerns are the economic health and security of a foreign nation, and because its members are drawn almost entirely from a single ethnic group...

Finally, Tom Friedman Is Shrill!

It only took him 12 Friedman units since 9/11:

9/11 is over - International Herald Tribune: Before 9/11, the world thought America's slogan was: "Where anything is possible for anybody." But that is not our global brand anymore. Our government has been exporting fear, not hope: "Give me your tired, your poor and your fingerprints."

You may think Guantánamo Bay is a prison camp in Cuba for Al Qaeda terrorists. A lot of the world thinks it's a place we send visitors who don't give the right answers at immigration. I will not vote for any candidate who is not committed to dismantling Guantánamo Bay and replacing it with a free field hospital for poor Cubans. Guantánamo Bay is the anti-Statue of Liberty...