Archive for March, 2010

Good night, gentle readers

My baby is in bed, and I’m not far behind. She gets up early. There is nobody available to moderate comments in the middle of the night, so I’m shutting down the comments. I’ll “see” you in the morning.

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Voters: Cut the deficit but don’t cut spending

This is one poll result that’s absolutely no surprise: Democracy Corps has found that voters are alarmed by the deficit, but they don’t want to raise taxes or cut spending to deal with it:

Despite these concerns, voters are reluctant to attack the deficit through tax increases or spending cuts on entitlements. In this economy, voters are wary of raising taxes, even if the revenue raised goes to something they deem important, like paying down the deficit. A majority (51 percent) say that even though the deficit is a big problem, we should not raise taxes to bring it down, while only 43 percent say that we might have to raise taxes to reduce the deficit. . .
And by an even wider 2:1 margin, voters reject cuts in Social Security, Medicare or defense spending to bring the deficit down (61 to 30 percent). With nearly three-quarters of the federal budget devoted to these items, exempting them from cuts leaves little room to make realistic progress on deficit reduction. This …

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Stop working so hard! You’re raising the unemployment rate

For months now, a close friend has been working 14-16 hour days at a boring job that pays less than she used to earn. But she was out of work for months and desperately needs the paycheck. So she works and work and works .

It turns out she’s not alone. Lots of hard-pressed workers are in that predicament, raising productivity for their employers and giving their employers reason not to hire other workers:

When workers become more efficient, it’s normally a good thing. But lately, it has acted as a powerful brake on job creation. And the question of whether the recent surge in productivity has run its course is the key to whether job growth is finally poised to take off.

One of the great surprises of the economic downturn that began 27 months ago is this: Businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.

That means …

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Ga. Senate’s new concern for black children

WASHINGTON — On Capitol Hill, says Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, it’s difficult to discuss women’s health “below the waist.” It’s no easier in the Georgia General Assembly, where annual attempts to restrict reproductive rights lead to ugly sermonizing, outrageous distortions and vile legislation. This year has proved no different.

Georgia’s social conservatives have come up with a new twist on their old tendency to insult women and restrict their choices: They’ve added race to the controversy — the subject isn’t inflammatory enough? —  seeking to draw black supporters with the charge that abortion is tantamount to genocide.

Dutifully taking up the new tack, the Georgia Senate has passed a bill which would outlaw any abortion “with the intent to prevent any unborn child from being born based upon the race, color or gender of the unborn child . .” Are you kidding me? Black women bear black children, so the bill reads like an indictment of any black woman who …

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Conservatives criticized DHS report that foresaw Hutaree

Last year, the Department of Homeland Security issued a report pointing to the rise of rightwing extremists who might be plotting violent acts. Conservatives threw a fit, claiming that the report was an attack on all conservatives and that it portrayed anyone who criticized Obama as an extremist.

Michelle Malkin declared:

In Obama land, there are no coincidences. It is no coincidence that this report echoes Tea Party-bashing left-wing blogs (check this one out comparing the Tea Party movement to the Weather Underground!) and demonizes the very Americans who will be protesting in the thousands on Wednesday for the nationwide Tax Day Tea Party.

In light of the attacks by anti-IRS terrorist  Joe Stack and the arrest of members of the so-called Hutaree, perhaps conservative critics of DHS will reconsider. DHS is merely trying to protect us all from extremists like this:

The court filing said the group, which called itself the Hutaree, planned to kill an unidentified law …

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Treasury gets some bail-out money back

Even if the U.S. Treasury ending up losing billions on the bank bail-out, the government should have taken the risk. The economy would have fallen right off the cliff if the Bush administration had not put together an enormous bail-out (known as TARP) in the fall of 2008.

But, in a bit of good news in a still-bleak economy, it looks at though the bail-out will cost taxpayers less than originally believed. Treasury has just announced its intention to sell its Citi stock, from which it expects to make an $8 billion profit:

The Obama administration is making final preparations to sell its stake in the New York bank. . At today’s prices, the sale would net more than $8 billion, by far the largest profit returned from any firm that accepted bailout funds, and the transaction would be the second-largest stock sale in history.
On paper, the government’s 27 percent stake has grown in value to $33 billion. The size of the deal in the works has Wall Street buzzing. Only the stock …

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Another good government program: Pell grants

WASHINGTON — The United States used to be among the world’s leaders in educating its citizenry.  After World War II, Americans completed college at higher rates than most other countries as returning soldiers used the GI bill to pay tuition.

My father was among the veterans who completed college with Uncle Sam’s assistance, a beneficiary of a farsighted federal government that understood boosting college attainment was good for the country. That cohort of college boys helped to lead a prolonged period of national prosperity. They fostered educational achievement in their children, who often completed college, as well.

College assistance was also a signal accomplishment of the Eisenhower administration, which spent millions on education after the Soviets launched Sputnik. Among other things, Eisenhower created a loan program to help students pay college costs.

But somewhere along the way, the nation lost its focus on pushing educational achievement. We became complacent while …

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Government-hating tea-partiers love their government checks

This is a great country, isn’t it? It’s a nation where libertarian, government-hating, militiamen can collect government checks that allow them the time to denounce the government! So it is with Michael Vanderboegh, an Alabama militiamen whose blog has urged health care reform critics to throw bricks through the windows of Democratic elected officials:

Vanderboegh said he once worked as a warehouse manager but now lives on government disability checks. He said he receives $1,300 a month because of his congestive heart failure, diabetes and hypertension. He has private health insurance through his wife, who works for a company that sells forklift products.

I first noticed this phenomenon back during the Timothy McVeigh era, when he and his fellow travelers denounced the government, proclamed it illegitimate and dutifully marched off to the mailbox to collect their government-issued farm subsidies.
The same thing was evident in the town hall meetings of last August, when …

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Obama’s visit to Afghanistan and limits of U.S. power

This is realpolitick, the messy business of accepting the world as it is and making tough choices, not between good and evil, but between bad and less-bad: President Obama went to Afghanistan to warn President Hamid Karzai to clean up the corruption in his government. But Obama knows perfectly well that Karzai will continue to be corrupt.

Equally troubling, Karzai is making common cause with America’s enemies. Recently, he received Iranian President Marmoud Ahmadinejad, who used the occasion to insult the U.S. Karzai depends on U.S. troops to stay in office.

Mr. Obama’s visit to Afghanistan came against a backdrop of tension between Mr. Karzai and the Americans that has not substantially abated since Mr. Karzai was declared the winner of an election tainted by fraud. In the wake of last August’s election, the United Nations and the United States, as well as other NATO countries, demanded that Mr. Karzai make major overhauls in the electoral system, tacitly indicating that they …

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Congress will be covered by “Obamacare”

Some of you, gentle readers, seem to have heard a rumor that members of Congress won’t be covered by “Obamacare.” They are.

(D) MEMBERS OF CONGRESS IN THE EXCHANGE

(i) REQUIREMENT- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, after the effective date of this subtitle, the only health plans that the Federal Government may make available to Members of Congress and congressional staff with respect to their service as a Member of Congress or congressional staff shall be health plans that are–

(I) created under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act); or

(II) offered through an Exchange established under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) (h/t Jonathan Cohn)

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