Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dems: Not too principled, not too smart

Two hundred and ten Democratic Congressmen voted to adjourn the House of Representatives today without addressing the biggest issue of the session: how much of the Bush Tax Cuts to extend. Thirty-nine Democrats joined one hundred and seventy Republicans voting against adjournment.

Clearly, Democratic leadership doesn't want to force its many vulnerable members to take a tough vote on taxes before standing for re-election. That's understandable, but they're doing a great deal of damage to the economy simply by leaving this momentous uncertainty hanging in the air for another month.

The tax increase takes effect January 1st; anyone hiring a new employee right now has to take into account that taxes may, or may not, rise sharply in just a few months. The government often daydreams about having positive ways to affect the economy: here it is, folks! Pass sensible tax legislation, well in advance, instead of playing head games with America's job creators.

However, hightailing it from Washington for political expediency might not actually help Democrats. They've helped guarantee that the lousy economy will continue and that fewer employers will make new hires. Voters will (rightly or wrongly) lay the persistent 10% unemployment rate on Democrats' doorsteps, and vote the bums out if things don't improve sharply in the next month. So Democrats may have outsmarted themselves and abandoned what little sense of adult responsibility they had, all in one fell swoop.

Taxes aren't the only thing left undone by this Congress: there's no federal budget with a new fiscal year starting on Friday. This is a fundamental failure by Congress to do its job. And don't blame the GOP: a bare majority is all that Pelosi needs to pass whatever Democrats want in the lower house. There's plenty of blame to go on the GOP side when they are in power.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Big in Brockton

NYTimes profiles Brockton High School, a 4,100-student behemoth in a lower-class Massachusetts immigrant town. Growing up on Boston's South Shore, I knew "Brockton" as a byword for crumminess. Brockton was sometimes the punchline of the joke, "The South may have invented white trash, but [insert trashy town here] perfected it."

Some teachers (unionized teachers!) have changed that, at least at the high school. Kudos to Dr. Szachowicz and friends for bringing grassroots change to the teaching culture, and kudos to the administration for stepping back and letting the educators take control.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pritchett on Obama on Development

President Obama laid out the clearest manifest of his administration on aid, and, according to well-respected economist Lant Pritchett, got most of it right. His guest post at AidWatch covers the highlights.

Calling all Reagan Democrats

A masterful remake of the "Morning in America" ad is about to hit the airwaves, says the LATimes. It's called "Mourning in America". If - like me - you were too young to remember the original, watch them both, and imagine the effect that'll have on Democrats who switched over to vote for Reagan in '84.

Hat tip to Drudge.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Marxist or the Witch?

Delaware Senate voters have no good choices for Senate in the race to replace Joe Biden. The pragmatic centrist in the race, Rep. Mike Castle, is a Republican but could not hold his base together and did not understand the level of disgust with Washington and the status quo. Perhaps, since he'd been in public life since 1966, he was not the best choice.

But Delawarians now face a choice between a Republican so nutty that former staffers hate her and she once joked about dabbling in witchcraft, and a Democrat who called himself a 'Marxist' in college. Presumably, they've both grown up, though the Democrat - Chris Coons - has executive experience to prove that hypothesis, whereas questions abound about Christine O'Donnell.

Global Review seriously considered endorsing Coons. He is, after all, more experienced and a known quantity, unless the Marxist thing rears its head.

But here's the kicker: if O'Donnell turns out to be a flake, she'll lose in 2014. Coons, unless he does something criminal, would be a lifetime appointment in Dem-heavy Delaware. When choosing between two bad representatives, choose the one you can un-elect later.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Tea Party Zeitgeist

Peggy Noonan takes a stab at explaining the Tea Party movement today. She does as good a job as anyone so far, illustrating how individual voters became so frustrated with their tepid GOP representation that they struck out on their own.

The Tea Party has no central leadership, despite the best efforts of Sarah Palin and Dick Armey. And it has massive "sympathy" from the electorate; Noonan cites the statistics that while a full 20% of voters identify as "Tea Party members", more than half of voters "favor" the Tea Party. More than half! That bodes well for Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell, and others who are being praised - and tarred - as Tea Partiers.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Trickle-Down Economics

Poverty has reached its highest level in the 50 years of recorded American history. Of course, the arbitrary line defining poverty has moved up over time, so this is not to say people are actually poorer than their grandparents, but they are certainly poorer than they were a few years ago.

It's a trope on the left now to mock "trickle-down economics", the notion that wealth created by the wealthy and talented drips down to those below them. The ugliness of the analogy aside, this notion was hammered hard during the Bush years, which saw substantial economic growth, but saw it concentrated in the top half of the income profile.

Does anyone, however, doubt that we're in the midst of a trickle-down recession? It began as a 'rich-man's panic', with stock portfolios tumbling and real estate investors losing big while the real economy chugged along healthily. After six months or so, however, job losses started piling up and a full-scale recession hit in the last quarter of 2008.

Now that the focus is on the recovery, why does "trickle-down economics" get such a bad name? If anything, the fat-cat bankers and annoying-at-parties investment bankers should have made themselves (and their conspicuous consumption) missed. These folks aren't the ones entering poverty, but those who are newly poor are painfully aware of the complementarity of capitalist, entrepreneur, and labor in creating jobs.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Introducing: Archipelago

My sister Polly is in Indonesia this year on a Fulbright teaching scholarship. She'll be in a remote town teaching English. Her new blog might be some of the best writing in the blogosphere; when Polly turns a phrase, it stays turned.

Notes from an Archipelago" will be in the blogroll; enjoy.

It's All the Media's Fault

NEWSFLASH: Blogger criticizes mainstream media!
NEWSFLASH: Dog bites man!

The world media appears to be in an uproar about one (and maybe several) "Christian" pastors who are planning to burn copies of the Quran on Sept 11th, which is the 10th 9th anniversary of the hateful attacks. And as we know, Jesus taught his followers to fight fire with fire and hate with hate.

But if this spark of hate metastasizes into a global conflagration, and especially if people die, the fault lies with the media. There's a lot of hateful, idiotic opinions in the world, and it is nowhere written that the media has a responsibility to give each of them a voice. Imagine if the media wrote stories about what some dumb blogger posted every time a controversial opinion popped up on the internet.

This "pastor" wanted fifteen minutes of fame, and the media has obliged obsequiously.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Lighting Up the Course

Stranger than fiction: A California golfer set a golf course on fire when his club hit a rock in the rough. The surrounding grass was dry enough to light, and the ensuing conflagration consumed 25 acres.

He is reportedly taking a mulligan on the shot.