Archive for September, 2011

Obama deficit plan acknowledges a political reality

Washington Republicans are complaining that President Obama’s new $4.4 trillion deficit-reduction plan — complete with the “Buffett rule” to ensure a minimum tax rate for millionaires — makes no effort to court bipartisan support.

“Class warfare will simply divide this country more. It will attack job creators, divide people and it doesn’t grow the economy,” Rep. Paul Ryan said Sunday on Fox. “Class warfare may make for really good politics, but it makes for rotten economics.”

However, those complaints would be more credible if Republicans hadn’t themselves made it clear, over and over again, that they have no interest whatsoever in bipartisan solutions. Obama has finally concluded that since the GOP has no intention to negotiate, it’s time to draw contrasts, and the package put together by the White House does that quite well.

The Republicans advocate deficit-reduction plans that require absolutely no sacrifice whatsoever from those Americans who even in these times …

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Voucher programs fail advocates’ claims

Thanks in part to redistricting, Georgia Republicans have hopes of achieving super-majorities in the state House and Senate in the next election cycle, meaning Democrats could no longer block changes to the state constitution.

Among other things, that’s almost certain to mean a renewed push to introduce a broad school-voucher program in the state.

The question is why.

Last month, Florida released the latest results of its school-voucher program for low-income students. More than 22,000 students took part in the program last school year, accounting for $148.5 million in state tax money diverted to private schools.

(Technically, the Florida program is funded by private donors, which in turn are given credits to lower their state tax bills. A $500 donation reduces your taxes by $500. Georgia has a relatively new program modeled closely after Florida’s.)

According to researcher David Figlio, an economist at Northwestern University, test results for voucher students last year …

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A sexy, funny and accurate treatise on money

We debate a lot on this blog about money, about issues of poor vs. rich, wealth vs. poverty and the interplay among them.

But it’s hardly a new conversation. Do yourself a favor: Take a half hour this weekend and go read this, from the 4th century BC. It’s a translation of Aristophanes’ play “Wealth,” from the ancient Greek.

I know I know. Roll your eyes all you want, then go read it anyway. It’s smart. It’s funny. After 2,500 years, it’s very much up to date, and today’s liberals and conservatives will both find support for their positions.

But a word of warning: As with much of ancient Greek drama, “Wealth” contains an earthy frankness about sex. (And I didn’t just stick that in there to get you to go read it.)

Human nature hasn’t changed, and neither has our relationship to money.

– Jay Bookman

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If only Stevie Wonder could see this ….

In the wake of recent exchanges between myself and Phil Kent, I’ve gotten a number of messages from individuals — at least a few of them apparently very nice people — who tell me that they are honestly, sincerely worried at what’s gonna happen to white people in this country once we are no longer in the majority.

I want to give each of them a hug and a message: “It’s gonna be OK.” Really, it is. We can handle it. We can adapt. There will still be a place for us, even in a multicultural America. And you know why I believe that?

Because we can dance and we got rhythm, and ain’t nobody can take that away from us.

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Gov’t contractors cost far more than federal workers

Assumption No.1: Private enterprise can always do it cheaper than government.

Assumption No. 2: Public employees are unproductive, inefficient and overpaid compared to their private-sector counterparts.

Wrong, and wrong.

Among conservatives, both assumptions are considered certainties in the same category as the sun always rises in the east, the earth is round and tax cuts raise revenue. In reality, they are more religious tenets than tested theories, and the fervor with which they are believed tells you nothing about how accurate they are.

This does.

The report by the well-respected Project on Government Oversight, a non-partisan Washington watchdog group, finds that when the federal government tries to outsource and privatize its functions, “the government actually pays service contractors at rates far exceeding the cost of employing federal employees to perform comparable functions.”

Specifically, POGO’s study shows that the federal government approves service contract …

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Book inspires pity for the Kim Kardashian of US politics

News flash: I’ve never much cared for Sarah Palin.

In an act of extreme political recklessness, and through no real fault of her own, Palin was pushed onto the national stage by men desperate enough to believe that she could be used as a tool for obtaining power. While she failed in that mission, she had enough native cunning to understand opportunity when she saw it, and she turned it to her own advantage.

Since then, Palin has become the Kim Kardashian of American politics, starved for the nurturing, reassuring warmth of the spotlight even if she has no real idea of what she wants to do there. Among many, her neediness for attention is apparently met with an equal need to give her that attention. It’s a match made for Gawker.

But all that said, this new Palin biography of title unmentioned by an author who will also go unmentioned is garbage. Some of it may be true, some of it is almost certainly fabricated or exaggerated. But who cares? Why sift through that slime trying …

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Boehner: No compromise, no negotiation on debt

I’ve seen this movie before. It sucked.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) rejected Thursday any increase in tax revenue and instead said that a special committee seeking long-term debt reduction should find $1.5 trillion in savings entirely from cutting federal agency spending and slash popular entitlement programs….

“When it comes to producing savings to reach its $1.5 trillion deficit reduction target, the Joint Select Committee has only one option: spending cuts and entitlement reform,” Boeher said, according to prepared remarks in an address to the Economic Club of Washington.

Note that while Boehner also endorsed the concept of tax reform, he clearly wants nothing to do with proposals that increase debt-reducing revenue by lowering tax rates and abolishing loopholes. Nope, not going to happen.

“…the Joint Select Committee has only one option: spending cuts and entitlement reform.”

That’s precisely the spirit of cooperation, teamwork and compromise that’s going …

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For Ron Paul, health-care question struck close to home

In the Republican debates the other night, Ron Paul was asked a hypothetical question about a healthy young man who goes without health insurance, but is then struck down by a major illness.

Do we step up and give him the medical treatment that he needs, Paul was asked, or do we just let him die as penalty for not doing the smart and responsible thing? (That second suggestion drew cheering from a small number in the crowd.)

Paul responded by suggesting that we should turn to private charity to handle the problem, which isn’t in the slightest bit feasible.

As it turns out, though, the question struck closer to home than most people realized, as Seth Abramovitch reports for Gawker.

Kent Snyder, 49, served as Paul’s 2008 campaign manager but died of complications from pneumonia two weeks after Paul withdrew from the ‘08 race. As the Wall Street Journal reported in Snyder’s obituary (which happened to be matched with the obituary of Sen. Jesse Helms):

“It was Kent more than …

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Median income down, poverty up. What’s happening?

From the Census Bureau:

“The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that in 2010, median household income declined, the poverty rate increased and the percentage without health insurance coverage was not statistically different from the previous year.

Real median household income in the United States in 2010 was $49,445, a 2.3 percent decline from the 2009 median.

The nation’s official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent in 2009 ─ the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate. There were 46.2 million people in poverty in 2010, up from 43.6 million in 2009 ─ the fourth consecutive annual increase and the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published.

Given the state of American politics, such information has already become ammunition for partisan attacks, with each party blaming the other for causing such a terrible state of affairs. I think that’s unfortunate, if inevitable, because the rancor and rhetoric …

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Political roundup from Pa., N.Y. and the Bay State

A few political stories from around the country with potentially national implications:

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (which I used to deliver as a kid):

HARRISBURG — A new proposal is pushing the often-forgotten Electoral College into the spotlight as Pennsylvania officials ponder the state’s role in next year’s presidential race.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi is trying to gather support to change the state’s “winner-takes-all” approach for awarding electoral votes. Instead, he’s suggesting that Pennsylvania dole them out based on which candidate wins each of the 18 congressional districts, with the final two going to the contender with the most votes statewide.

So far, the idea has received support from colleagues of the Delaware County Republican in the state House and from Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. But Democrats, who have carried the state in presidential contests since 1992, said the shift would erode Pennsylvania’s clout.

The change being pushed by …

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