Archive for September, 2011

The screwed-up philosophy behind ‘managed lanes’

I have never understood the logic behind these so-called “managed lanes,” also known as Lexus lanes. Take the new project about to open on I-85 north of the Perimeter.

Here’s the theory:

You take an existing lane of interstate highway, an expensive piece of infrastructure that has already been built and paid for by taxpayers both rich and poor through gasoline taxes. You cordon that lane off, allowing access only to those who are willing and able to pay extra to use what they’ve already paid for once.

The idea, we’re told, is that even in the worst traffic, those who can afford the extra cost will be able to buy themselves a free-flowing trip at a minimum of 45 mph. And you accomplish that by raising tolls so high that by design, most people won’t be able to use it. As AJC reporter Ariel Hart notes in a story in today’s newspaper:

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution review of hundreds of pages of documents associated with the project and interviews with outside experts shows …

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Obama summoning ghosts of presidents past

110922_obama_bridge_ap_328

Very interesting.

President Obama was in Ohio today, trying to build support for his jobs-and-infrastructure program. He spoke standing next to the Brent Spence Bridge, an aging structure that spans the Ohio River and connects Ohio, the home state of House Speaker John Boehner, to Kentucky, the home state of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“Now, that’s just a coincidence. Purely accidental, that that happened,” he told the crowd jokingly.

Politico live-blogged the speech:

Obama says “there’s nothing wrong” with asking the rich to pay more. And he says that if asking the rich to pay more in taxes is class warfare, “then you know what? I’m a warrior for the middle class. I’m happy to fight for the middle class. I’m happy to fight for working people.”

I don’t know about you, but that sounds reminiscent of FDR’s famous speech in the 1936 campaign, in which he attacked “the old enemies of peace–business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class …

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Best rebuttal to Koch brothers is their own bottom line

Forbes has released its annual update on the 400 richest Americans, with a 55-year-old college dropout by the name of Bill Gates still leading the list. His buddy Warren Buffett comes in second; Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle, is third; and the Koch brothers, David and Charles, are tied for fourth with $25 billion apiece. (George Soros is seventh at $22 billion).

Drawing upon the annual Forbes estimates, the folks at the Center of American Progress have charted the fortunes of the Koch brothers over the past 10 years. And I think it’s very interesting.

koch_brothers_fortune

While I have political differences with the Koch brothers, I don’t begrudge them the success that they have enjoyed, not in the least. These aren’t CEOs squeezing shareholders for more and more money; they themselves are the company owners, and they’ve clearly made wise business decisions.

Instead, I’m troubled by the gaping contrast between their political rhetoric and their own experience. Through the right-wing groups …

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Government shutdown again looms as possibility

Another government shutdown crisis?

Really?

It’s hard to conceive of a better way to shatter what little faith remains in Washington. And of course, for some people that may be just the point.

By a margin of 195-230, the U.S. House yesterday rejected a continuing resolution needed to fund the government beyond Sept. 30, when the fiscal year ends. Most House Democrats voted against the resolution because they oppose deep cuts made in other programs to fund emergency-relief measures, arguing that such cuts in rough economic times will cost thousands of jobs.

Conversely, a group of almost 50 Republicans voted against the bill — against pleas from their own leadership — because in their eyes it didn’t cut deep enough. In fact, they insist that their party’s leadership break the spending deal that was agreed to just last month with the Senate and President Obama.

U.S. Rep. Tom Graves of Georgia was one of the leaders in that conservative effort, which was joined by Reps. Austin …

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No, Sen. McCain, THIS is the Straight Talk Express

I’m thinking Sen. Scott Brown is going to be in for an entertaining and illuminating fight to retain his seat:

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The ‘Obama is regulating the economy to death’ claim

Trapped as they are by their own rhetoric, the Republicans are down to just two basic prescriptions for improving job growth: Cut taxes and reduce “job-killing” regulation.

We’ve dealt with the tax question repeatedly, demonstrating both that the current tax burden is lower than it has been in 60 years and that neither tax cuts nor tax hikes have the economic impact that the GOP alleges.

But what about this second claim, the notion that the federal government is strangling the U.S. economy with regulation, and that the Obama administration is rapidly making things worse?

Well, let’s start with the basics. The World Bank ranks the United States fifth in the world, out of 183 nations ranked, in the ease of doing business. The only four nations ahead of us in the ranking are Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Great Britain.

OK. but isn’t Obama in the process of destroying all that? By the time he’s finished wrecking the American economy with all of his liberal rules, won’t we …

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GOP to Fed: Stop trying to help the economy

In their most recent debate, the Republican presidential field strongly supported stripping the Federal Reserve of its legal authority to try to boost employment and the economy.

As Rick Santorum put it, Fed efforts to try to increase “employment and dealing with that leads to a fundamental distrust among the American people that they are taking their eye off the ball, which is sound money. They should be a sound money Federal Reserve. That should be their single charter, and that is it.”

Rick Perry went even further, suggesting that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke was abusing his power by trying to boost the economy and thus re-elect President Obama. (That’s curious because Bernanke is a Republican who served as chairman of President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers and was appointed Fed chair by Bush in 2006.)

“If you are allowing the Federal Reserve to be used for political purposes, that it would be almost treasonous. I think that is a very clear statement of fact,” Perry …

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Solyndra bankruptcy an embarrassment to Obama

The collapse of Solyndra, a California-based solar-panel company, has cost taxpayers $535 million in federally guaranteed loans and exposed the Obama administration to legitimate criticism of how it handled the project.

In a nutshell, the White House seems to have been so enthralled by the prospect of clean-energy jobs, as well as by a desire for a politically useful success story, that it ignored warnings that Solyndra might be a bad investment. In addition, FBI and congressional investigators are looking into more serious allegations, including claims that Solyndra executives lied to federal officials about the company’s prospects and that political favoritism may have played a role.

The Solyndra case has also re-energized a broader debate about government subsidies to private industry. As Paul Ryan, the Republican chair of the House Budget Committee, put it Sunday on Fox News, Solyndra represents “industrial policy and crony capitalism at its worst. It’s Exhibit A for how …

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Troy Davis: Doubt casts bigger shadow than we realized

Since DNA evidence became available and admissible in court, 17 people who had been convicted of murder and sentenced to death by execution were later exonerated by DNA. Those innocent people were then freed, often with the support of the very same prosecutors who had initially proved they were guilty “beyond the shadow of a doubt.”

Think about that. Without the tool of DNA evidence, those 17 innocent people would almost certainly have been executed for crimes that they did not commit. In effect, they would have become innocent victims of a society and a legal system that abhor the taking of innocent life. (Since 1973, the Death Penalty Information Center says, more than a hundred people condemned to Death Row have had their sentences overturned because of doubts about their guilt.)

Now think about the hundreds of people on Death Row today for whom no DNA evidence exists. It did not help prove their guilt, and it cannot prove their innocence. It is silent on their case. I have …

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To GOP, taxes on wealthy a bigger threat than national debt

Republicans like to speak in dire, almost apocalyptic tones about the impact of our growing national debt on future generations of Americans.

Rep. Paul Ryan, for example, predicts that on its current path the national debt “will overwhelm the budget, smother the economy, weaken America’s competitiveness in the 21st century global economy, and threaten the survival of the government’s major benefit programs.”

House Speaker John Boehner paints an equally grim picture, warning that “America’s debt crisis threatens our job growth, our national security and our children’s future. Simply put, our debt threatens our very way of life and, without significant changes, the future of our country.”

Terrifying as our growing debt might be, however, one thing frightens Republicans even more: Tax hikes on the richest 1 percent of American households. Even though wealthier Americans have reaped most of the benefits from a global economy that has left many other Americans struggling to …

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