Archive for November, 2010

New Atlanta stadium: Don’t raise the roof for Super Bowl

“No dome, no Super Bowl” in Atlanta — Norman Braman, then-chairman of the NFL’s Super Bowl selection committee, 1989

“… we could not overcome the prejudice of the owners’ vote concerning the 2000 ice storm” the last time the Super Bowl was in Atlanta — Gary Stokan, president of the Atlanta Sports Council, in a 2005 memo

“The [Super Bowl] is meant to be played in the elements” — Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, 2010

Which of these statements does not belong?

There are any number of reasons to oppose using tax revenues to build a second downtown stadium for professional football. First and foremost, there are far more pressing needs for the several million dollars a year in Atlanta hotel taxes that will be freed up when the Georgia Dome is paid off. (Our GOP-dominated Legislature and Republican governor apparently thought otherwise this spring when they approved a 30-year extension of the tax to pay for a new stadium.)

There may also be reasons to support the new …

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Another duo suggests ways to balance the federal budget

Another week, another bipartisan report on eliminating the federal budget deficit and trimming the national debt — this one from former Sen. Pete Domenini (R., N.M.) and Democrat Alice Rivlin. Here, from their op-ed published in today’s Washington Post, are the highlights:

To ensure a more robust recovery, we propose a one-year “payroll tax holiday” for 2011, suspending Social Security payroll taxes for employers and employees. We also would phase in the steps to reduce deficits and debt gradually beginning in 2012, so the economy will be strong enough to absorb them.

We would stabilize the debt held by the public at less than 60 percent of gross domestic product, an internationally recognized standard; reduce annual deficits to manageable levels; and balance the “primary” budget (everything other than interest payments) by 2014.

We would dramatically simplify the tax system, establishing individual tax rates of 15 and 27 percent (from the current high of 35), cutting the …

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Planes, trains and Obamaphiles

Regarding the new airport security measures that have made everyone so upset:

Am I the only person wondering whether the Obama administration, which is very openly pushing high-speed rail as an alternative to airplanes, could really be all that bothered that the new security measures are giving air travel such a bad name?

This doesn’t require any truther- or birther-esque belief in grand conspiracies. Public outrage that translates into public support for high-speed rail could be a wholly unintended consequence of “junk”-gate. Even so, might the Obama administration now see this moment as an opportunity to renew its rail push? Never waste a crisis, you know.

We have, after all, just recently seen that high-level administration officials skewed an official report on the Gulf oil spill in such a way as to lead to a drilling moratorium — you know, all in the president’s effort to “restore science to its rightful place.” You don’t have to believe conspiracy theorists who think the …

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Spin the budget: This is how government lies to you

We got an update today on how the whole austerity thing is going in Greece — where, last you may have heard, protesters were killing innocent bank employees in defense of their unsustainable government-provided benefits.

Bottom line: It’s not going so well. But what’s most interesting here is the bald-faced way in which the Greek government is lying about its performance. It’s a type of lie that sounds the same in any language. From The Wall Street Journal’s report (subscription required):

The Greek government Monday vowed to press ahead with tough fiscal action despite an upward revision in its 2009 deficit by the European Union’s statistics agency.

In a statement following the release of Eurostat’s revised data, the finance ministry said Greece had already surpassed its 2010 budget goals by shrinking its deficit to 9.4% of gross domestic product this year. It also reaffirmed its plan to cut the deficit to below 3% of GDP by 2014, in line with its agreement with international …

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A chance to change the way we talk about taxes

Few word pairings give me less reason for optimism than “bipartisan commission.” Too often, it’s just a tool for politicians to agree not to do anything — or at least not anything good — about a problem, and then not to blame each other for the outcome.

That said, I’m encouraged by the first draft of a plan to cut our federal budget deficit and shrink the national debt, released Wednesday.

The number crunchers will now sharpen their pencils and tell us whether the math behind these surprisingly concrete proposals really works out. At this point, it’s safe to say the plan isn’t perfect, but it’s a far better starting place than most of us anticipated.

We should give close scrutiny to the spending cuts put forward. There is a tendency in Washington, on both sides of the aisle, to increase spending by, say, 4 percent rather than the 5 percent originally budgeted and call it a “spending cut.” The budget, at 21 percent of the economy under this plan, would remain too large.

That’s …

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Why a tax-rates extension is a no-brainer (Updated)

President Obama is drawing fire from his left for seemingly agreeing, if a Huffington Post interview with White House adviser David Axelrod is any indication, to a two-year extension of the current federal tax rates. (UPDATE: Axelrod is now walking back that notion. Big surprise.)

I’m not sure what else Obama’s critics expected him to do.

In the first place, most economists agree that, if there’s ever a good time to raise taxes, this isn’t it. The economy is still too weak. Even speaking from a purely political standpoint, if Obama were to refuse to extend all tax rates for high earners and the economy were to remain stagnant, he’d be very vulnerable to further attacks that he was to blame.

Second, it’s undeniable that one loud and clear message from last week’s elections was that a majority of the electorate believes Washington’s fiscal problem is spending, not revenue. That said, it is hard for Republicans to argue at this point that they won enough of a mandate to make the …

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15 for 2012: A first set of ‘power rankings’ for GOP hopefuls

You knew it would be here before long. The momentum that Republicans gained last week means the talk about the 2012 GOP presidential primary is already well under way.

On Tuesday, National Journal’s Hotline released its inaugural “2012 Presidential Power Rankings.” There are 15 candidates in four descending tiers, based on money, campaign infrastructure, strengths and weaknesses:

The A-List Tier

1. Mitt Romney

2. Tim Pawlenty

3. John Thune

4. Haley Barbour

The Fox News Tier

5. Mike Huckabee

6. Sarah Palin

7. Newt Gingrich

8. Mike Pence

The Governor/VP/’16 Tier

9. Mitch Daniels

10. Chris Christie

11. Rick Perry

12. Bobby Jindal

The Tea Party Tier

13. Rick Santorum

14. Jim DeMint

15. R. Paul (left ambiguous on purpose to leave an opening for Ron or his son, Rand)

What do I make of such a list? Beyond the fact that it’s way too long?

I think Romney is definitely in the top tier (for now, let’s ignore Hotline’s names for the tiers), and Pawlenty probably is as well. Where they’ll …

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What’s sauce for New Jersey …

A reminder to Republicans everywhere that you can cut spending, turn down federal money for transportation projects whose costs are spiraling out of control, and take on public-sector unions — and still remain widely popular, even in a historically blue state:

New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie gets decent grades from voters as he nears the end of his first year in office, with a 51 – 38 percent approval rating, higher than President Barack Obama or any other statewide leader, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Assigning letter grades to the governor’s performance, the independent Quinnipiac University poll finds:

* 17 percent of New Jersey voters give Christie an A;

* 31 percent give him a B;

* 20 percent give him a C;

* 16 percent give him a D;

* 15 percent give him an F.

Christie is more of a leader than a bully, voters say 50 – 42 percent. But 48 percent say he is “confrontational,” while 43 percent say he is “honest and refreshing.”

His first year …

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On being pro-business vs. pro-businesses

At Cafe Hayek, economist Don Boudreaux makes a distinction between two ways of being “pro-business.” His comments were prompted by a New York Times article about the economic element of President Obama’s his current trip to Asia, and how the visit may be a way for the White House to mend fences with Corporate America. But I highly recommend it to Republicans as well, both nationally and here in Georgia:

There are two ways for a government to be ‘pro-business.’ The first way is to avoid interfering in capitalist acts among consenting adults – that is, to keep taxes low, regulations few, and subsidies non-existent. This ‘pro-business’ stance promotes widespread prosperity because in reality it isn’t so much pro-business as it is pro-consumer. When this way is pursued, businesses are rewarded for pleasing consumers, and only for pleasing consumers.

The second, and very different, way for government to be pro-business is to bestow favors and privileges on politically connected …

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The Georgia GOP dominates, but a word of caution

“Shellacking,” the word President Barack Obama applied to his party’s losses Tuesday, doesn’t begin to describe the election for Georgia Democrats.

After all, it implies there’s still something left to beat.

You’ve heard about the Republicans’ clean sweep of statewide offices. You might not know that the highest vote total for any Democrat (Ken Hodges in the attorney general’s race) was the party’s lowest since 1998, when the state had 1.9 million fewer voters.

Think about that: It’s as if every new voter in Georgia over the past 12 years decided to vote Republican.

It gets worse. Of the General Assembly’s 79 contested races — and let’s stipulate that that number is way too small — Democrats won just 19. That’s one out of every four. In all races above the county level, from Congress to the state’s executive and legislative branches, Democrats unseated exactly one Republican (state Rep. Jill Chambers of DeKalb County).

Twenty years ago, Democrats in Georgia were so dominant …

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