Commentary Magazine


Topic: Paul Krugman

RE: Paul Krugman’s Fantasy World

I agree with Pete that Paul Krugman seems to be losing it entirely. His column this morning essentially accuses Republicans of not caring about the country, only about their own political advantage, as though a wrecked economy would be in the party’s interest.

Pete quotes Krugman, quoting Obama as follows:

“We [the Obama administration] didn’t actually, I think, do what Franklin Delano Roosevelt did, which was basically wait for six months until the thing had gotten so bad that it became an easier sell politically because we thought that was irresponsible. We had to act quickly.”

According to Krugman, “this is a right-wing smear,” and Mr. Obama, it turns out, “buys the right-wing smear.”

I am not a fan of President Obama, heaven knows, but could he possibly have so little knowledge of American history, not to mention his great predecessor in the White House, as to not know when presidents were inaugurated prior to 1936, and to have never heard of the Hundred Days? Things couldn’t have been any worse on March 4, 1933. Banks in 38 states were already closed. The stock exchange had announced it would not open that day and did not know when it would. Between March 4 and June 16, FDR signed into law the Emergency Banking Relief Act, created the Civilian Conservation Corps, took the country off the gold standard, signed the Federal Emergency Relief Act, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, established the Tennessee Valley Authority, signed the Federal Securities Act, got Congress to cancel gold clauses in contracts, signed the National Employment Act, the Homeowners Refinancing Act, the Banking Act of 1933, the Farm Credit Act, the Emergency Railroad Transportation Act, and the National Industrial Recovery Act.

An easier sell? The Emergency Banking Relief Act passed both houses of Congress in less than a day (no, they didn’t read it). Roosevelt was, essentially, the dictator of the United States (in the sense that all power was placed in his hands for a limited time to meet the emergency, a la the old Roman Republic) for three months.

As for a right-wing smear, I had never heard this tale before. It would be interesting to track it down.

I agree with Pete that Paul Krugman seems to be losing it entirely. His column this morning essentially accuses Republicans of not caring about the country, only about their own political advantage, as though a wrecked economy would be in the party’s interest.

Pete quotes Krugman, quoting Obama as follows:

“We [the Obama administration] didn’t actually, I think, do what Franklin Delano Roosevelt did, which was basically wait for six months until the thing had gotten so bad that it became an easier sell politically because we thought that was irresponsible. We had to act quickly.”

According to Krugman, “this is a right-wing smear,” and Mr. Obama, it turns out, “buys the right-wing smear.”

I am not a fan of President Obama, heaven knows, but could he possibly have so little knowledge of American history, not to mention his great predecessor in the White House, as to not know when presidents were inaugurated prior to 1936, and to have never heard of the Hundred Days? Things couldn’t have been any worse on March 4, 1933. Banks in 38 states were already closed. The stock exchange had announced it would not open that day and did not know when it would. Between March 4 and June 16, FDR signed into law the Emergency Banking Relief Act, created the Civilian Conservation Corps, took the country off the gold standard, signed the Federal Emergency Relief Act, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, established the Tennessee Valley Authority, signed the Federal Securities Act, got Congress to cancel gold clauses in contracts, signed the National Employment Act, the Homeowners Refinancing Act, the Banking Act of 1933, the Farm Credit Act, the Emergency Railroad Transportation Act, and the National Industrial Recovery Act.

An easier sell? The Emergency Banking Relief Act passed both houses of Congress in less than a day (no, they didn’t read it). Roosevelt was, essentially, the dictator of the United States (in the sense that all power was placed in his hands for a limited time to meet the emergency, a la the old Roman Republic) for three months.

As for a right-wing smear, I had never heard this tale before. It would be interesting to track it down.

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Paul Krugman’s Fantasy World

Some writers eventually take up residence in the Land Beyond Parody. Such is the case with the New York Times’s Paul Krugman.

For example, revisiting a concern he expressed in early 2008 about a few kind words Barack Obama had to say about Ronald Reagan (Reagan offered a “sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing”), Krugman writes, “it was ridiculous, they said, to think of Obama as a captive of right-wing mythology. But are you so sure about that now?”

How could we be, with the ever-vigilant Dr. Krugman on the case?

According to the Princeton professor, this time President Obama’s unpardonable sin is saying this: “We didn’t actually, I think, do what Franklin Delano Roosevelt did, which was basically wait for six months until the thing had gotten so bad that it became an easier sell politically because we thought that was irresponsible. We had to act quickly.”

According to Krugman, “this is a right-wing smear,” and Mr. Obama, it turns out, “buys the right-wing smear.”

It gets worse: “More and more,” Krugman writes, “it’s becoming clear that progressives who had their hearts set on Obama were engaged in a huge act of self-delusion. Once you got past the soaring rhetoric you noticed, if you actually paid attention to what he said, that he largely accepted the conservative storyline, a view of the world, including a mythological history, that bears little resemblance to the facts. And confronted with a situation utterly at odds with that storyline … he stayed with the myth.”

What appears to be happening is that, as some of us anticipated, the left is distancing itself from Obama because his presidency is perceived to be coming apart. Those on the left desperately want to protect their ideology from the collateral damage of a failed presidency. So the new narrative is that Obama is not really a liberal at all or, in this instance, he’s actually a quasi-conservative, at least when it comes to his “view of the world” and the “mythological history” he embraces.

These recriminations cannot be good news for either President Obama or for liberalism. Nor can any of this be easy for Mr. Krugman. He is, after all, the man who, in the aftermath of Obama’s election, wrote this:

A magnificent victory for Barack Obama. And bear in mind that the campaign, in its final stages, was really about different philosophies of governing. This wasn’t like the 2004 campaign, which was essentially fought over fake issues — Bush running on national security and social issues, then claiming that he had a mandate to privatize Social Security. In this election, Obama proudly stood up for progressive values and the superiority of progressive policies; John McCain, in return, denounced him as a socialist, a redistributor. And the American people rendered their verdict.

I guess at that time, Krugman wasn’t able to get past the soaring rhetoric to actually pay attention to what Obama said.

With every passing week, Paul Krugman ventures further into the fantasy world he is constructing in the wake of the collapse of liberalism’s former demigod. It is a somewhat affecting and endlessly amusing thing to watch.

Some writers eventually take up residence in the Land Beyond Parody. Such is the case with the New York Times’s Paul Krugman.

For example, revisiting a concern he expressed in early 2008 about a few kind words Barack Obama had to say about Ronald Reagan (Reagan offered a “sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing”), Krugman writes, “it was ridiculous, they said, to think of Obama as a captive of right-wing mythology. But are you so sure about that now?”

How could we be, with the ever-vigilant Dr. Krugman on the case?

According to the Princeton professor, this time President Obama’s unpardonable sin is saying this: “We didn’t actually, I think, do what Franklin Delano Roosevelt did, which was basically wait for six months until the thing had gotten so bad that it became an easier sell politically because we thought that was irresponsible. We had to act quickly.”

According to Krugman, “this is a right-wing smear,” and Mr. Obama, it turns out, “buys the right-wing smear.”

It gets worse: “More and more,” Krugman writes, “it’s becoming clear that progressives who had their hearts set on Obama were engaged in a huge act of self-delusion. Once you got past the soaring rhetoric you noticed, if you actually paid attention to what he said, that he largely accepted the conservative storyline, a view of the world, including a mythological history, that bears little resemblance to the facts. And confronted with a situation utterly at odds with that storyline … he stayed with the myth.”

What appears to be happening is that, as some of us anticipated, the left is distancing itself from Obama because his presidency is perceived to be coming apart. Those on the left desperately want to protect their ideology from the collateral damage of a failed presidency. So the new narrative is that Obama is not really a liberal at all or, in this instance, he’s actually a quasi-conservative, at least when it comes to his “view of the world” and the “mythological history” he embraces.

These recriminations cannot be good news for either President Obama or for liberalism. Nor can any of this be easy for Mr. Krugman. He is, after all, the man who, in the aftermath of Obama’s election, wrote this:

A magnificent victory for Barack Obama. And bear in mind that the campaign, in its final stages, was really about different philosophies of governing. This wasn’t like the 2004 campaign, which was essentially fought over fake issues — Bush running on national security and social issues, then claiming that he had a mandate to privatize Social Security. In this election, Obama proudly stood up for progressive values and the superiority of progressive policies; John McCain, in return, denounced him as a socialist, a redistributor. And the American people rendered their verdict.

I guess at that time, Krugman wasn’t able to get past the soaring rhetoric to actually pay attention to what Obama said.

With every passing week, Paul Krugman ventures further into the fantasy world he is constructing in the wake of the collapse of liberalism’s former demigod. It is a somewhat affecting and endlessly amusing thing to watch.

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The German Example

Chris Caldwell provides one of the most important pieces of economic analysis since the financial meltdown more than two years ago. The focus is on Germany, but it tells us much about Obama and his mindset.

As for Germany, Caldwell explains they told the Obami and the Keynesians to buzz off:

“You won’t find a lot of Keynesians here,” explained one German economic policymaker in Berlin in September. That will not be news to anyone who has spoken to his counterparts in Washington. In their view, Germany is a skulker, a rotten citizen of the global economy, the macroeconomic equivalent of a juvenile delinquent, or worse. It is a smart aleck in the emergency ward that is the global economy. It is a flouter of the prescriptions of the new Doctor New Deal who sits in the White House.

And, wouldn’t you know it, Germany was right:

Germany’s growth in this year’s second quarter was 2.2 percent on a quarter-to-quarter basis. That means it is growing at almost 9 percent a year. Its unemployment rate has fallen to 7.5 percent, below what it was at the start of the global financial crisis—indeed, the lowest in 18 years. The second-biggest Western economy appears to be handling this deep recession much more effectively than the biggest—and emerging from it much earlier.

It seems the Germans’ skepticism of Keynesian alchemy — technically the “multiplier effect” (a dollar spent by the government magically transforms to more than a dollar in economic activity) — was correct. According to the Germans, the famed multiplier is actually a divider:

“Our research says the multiplier is more like .60,” says the German official. If he is correct, then a stimulus plan can actually deaden an economy rather than stimulate it. If he is correct, you might have been as well off to have taken the stimulus money and thrown it away.

Caldwell is straightforward — Germany already does a lot of “stimulating” and embodies many aspects of the social-welfare state. But his argument — and Germany’s — is compelling: anti-Obamanomics is superior to Obamanomics.

So what does this tell us about Obama? For starters, he operates in an intellectual cocoon. Remember, he told us that “all” economists believed in his Keynesian stimulus plan. Well, as he was spinning us, a body of research was building that Keynesianism is, to put it mildly, bunk:

The Harvard economist Alberto Alesina and his colleague Silvia Ardagna published an influential paper last fall in which they surveyed all the major fiscal adjustments in OECD countries between 1970 and 2007 and showed that tax cuts are more likely to increase growth than spending hikes. One of their most controversial findings—which comes from the work of two other Italian economists—is that cutting deficits can be expansionary, particularly if it is done through “large, decisive” government spending cuts, as it was in Ireland and Denmark in the 1980s. More generally, Alesina has argued that “monomaniacal” Keynesians have focused unduly on aggregate demand.

So much for the pose that Obama is a sophisticated intellectual. He is, rather, monomaniacally wedded to liberal dogma.

The German experience also tells us much about the bullying behavior of the Obama team. Domestic critics are brushed off, Israel is browbeaten, and Germany is harangued because they don’t roll over and comply with the misguided vision of the president. Caldwell explains:

Germany has been scolded, even browbeaten, by Obama administration officials, from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on down, for saving too much and spending too little. It has refused to stimulate its economy as the United States has done, on the grounds that the resulting budget deficits would not be sustainable and the policies themselves would not work. Administration officials have not been the only ones to warn the Germans about the path they’re on. On the eve of last summer’s G‑20 summit in Toronto, the economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman gave an interview to the German business paper Handelsblatt in which he said that, while Germany might think its deficits are big, they are peanuts “from an American viewpoint.” Germany cannot say it wasn’t warned.

There is a dreary predictability about Obama. Take outmoded liberal dogma. Double down on it. Ignore empirical evidence. Deride and bully opponents. And when the dogma fails, blame those who resisted. Whether we are talking about health care, economic policy, or the Middle East, the pattern is the same. It is not simply that Obama is wrong on the merits on these issues (although surely he is). It is that Obama’s self-image as the “smartest man in the room” prevents him from learning from errors, absorbing the experience of alternative policy choices, and showing grace and magnanimity toward friends and foes. No wonder Obama has become a sour figure, and the public has soured on him.

Chris Caldwell provides one of the most important pieces of economic analysis since the financial meltdown more than two years ago. The focus is on Germany, but it tells us much about Obama and his mindset.

As for Germany, Caldwell explains they told the Obami and the Keynesians to buzz off:

“You won’t find a lot of Keynesians here,” explained one German economic policymaker in Berlin in September. That will not be news to anyone who has spoken to his counterparts in Washington. In their view, Germany is a skulker, a rotten citizen of the global economy, the macroeconomic equivalent of a juvenile delinquent, or worse. It is a smart aleck in the emergency ward that is the global economy. It is a flouter of the prescriptions of the new Doctor New Deal who sits in the White House.

And, wouldn’t you know it, Germany was right:

Germany’s growth in this year’s second quarter was 2.2 percent on a quarter-to-quarter basis. That means it is growing at almost 9 percent a year. Its unemployment rate has fallen to 7.5 percent, below what it was at the start of the global financial crisis—indeed, the lowest in 18 years. The second-biggest Western economy appears to be handling this deep recession much more effectively than the biggest—and emerging from it much earlier.

It seems the Germans’ skepticism of Keynesian alchemy — technically the “multiplier effect” (a dollar spent by the government magically transforms to more than a dollar in economic activity) — was correct. According to the Germans, the famed multiplier is actually a divider:

“Our research says the multiplier is more like .60,” says the German official. If he is correct, then a stimulus plan can actually deaden an economy rather than stimulate it. If he is correct, you might have been as well off to have taken the stimulus money and thrown it away.

Caldwell is straightforward — Germany already does a lot of “stimulating” and embodies many aspects of the social-welfare state. But his argument — and Germany’s — is compelling: anti-Obamanomics is superior to Obamanomics.

So what does this tell us about Obama? For starters, he operates in an intellectual cocoon. Remember, he told us that “all” economists believed in his Keynesian stimulus plan. Well, as he was spinning us, a body of research was building that Keynesianism is, to put it mildly, bunk:

The Harvard economist Alberto Alesina and his colleague Silvia Ardagna published an influential paper last fall in which they surveyed all the major fiscal adjustments in OECD countries between 1970 and 2007 and showed that tax cuts are more likely to increase growth than spending hikes. One of their most controversial findings—which comes from the work of two other Italian economists—is that cutting deficits can be expansionary, particularly if it is done through “large, decisive” government spending cuts, as it was in Ireland and Denmark in the 1980s. More generally, Alesina has argued that “monomaniacal” Keynesians have focused unduly on aggregate demand.

So much for the pose that Obama is a sophisticated intellectual. He is, rather, monomaniacally wedded to liberal dogma.

The German experience also tells us much about the bullying behavior of the Obama team. Domestic critics are brushed off, Israel is browbeaten, and Germany is harangued because they don’t roll over and comply with the misguided vision of the president. Caldwell explains:

Germany has been scolded, even browbeaten, by Obama administration officials, from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on down, for saving too much and spending too little. It has refused to stimulate its economy as the United States has done, on the grounds that the resulting budget deficits would not be sustainable and the policies themselves would not work. Administration officials have not been the only ones to warn the Germans about the path they’re on. On the eve of last summer’s G‑20 summit in Toronto, the economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman gave an interview to the German business paper Handelsblatt in which he said that, while Germany might think its deficits are big, they are peanuts “from an American viewpoint.” Germany cannot say it wasn’t warned.

There is a dreary predictability about Obama. Take outmoded liberal dogma. Double down on it. Ignore empirical evidence. Deride and bully opponents. And when the dogma fails, blame those who resisted. Whether we are talking about health care, economic policy, or the Middle East, the pattern is the same. It is not simply that Obama is wrong on the merits on these issues (although surely he is). It is that Obama’s self-image as the “smartest man in the room” prevents him from learning from errors, absorbing the experience of alternative policy choices, and showing grace and magnanimity toward friends and foes. No wonder Obama has become a sour figure, and the public has soured on him.

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Excavating the Left’s Tunnel Vision

After several hysterical pieces in the New York Times denouncing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s refusal to sink his state deeper in debt to build a train tunnel to New York, David Brooks attempts to inject a little sanity into the debate in his column today. His colleagues Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert waxed hysterical about the decision, claiming that the governor’s reluctance to spend billions on the tunnel that the state doesn’t have is based on irrational hatred of government.

Both claim that the refusal is based on a lack of vision and imagination and bespeaks a smallness of spirit. But, of course, this is pure hyperbole, with Krugman claiming that the cause of potentially making his (and mine, as I wrote last week) commute a bit quicker is comparable to building the Erie Canal or the Hoover Dam, projects that transformed the American economy and its history.

Krugman downplays the cost overruns on the project (which even Christie’s much greater estimates almost certainly underestimate) and claims that New Jersey was getting a bargain; but when all is said and done, what Christie has refused to do is to spend $8 billion or more to get $3 billion in federal money. I guess you have to have won a Nobel Prize in economics to think that’s a bargain. Herbert laments the loss of 6,000 construction jobs involved in the tunnel’s cancellation but fails to note that at $1 million+ per job, what we’re talking about here is a boondoggle that might have made Tony Soprano’s fictional mobster exploitation of “The Esplanade” look like small change.

Brooks acknowledges that the tunnel is needed but rightly notes that the state’s inability to afford it stems from the fact that our states and municipalities are drowning in debt largely generated by the costs of paying government employees and their pensions (an issue that Jeff Jacoby explores at length in this month’s issue of COMMENTARY). It’s all well and good to say that big infrastructure projects are exactly the sort of thing government should be doing, but the liberal addiction to public-sector spending has made that impossible. And the public-sector unions that dominate the Democratic Party make sure this never changes.

One reader reacted to my earlier post on this subject by claiming that what Christie has done is to try and live without debt, a bad policy for any government, business, or family. In fact, what Christie is attempting to do is establish the principle that there must be a limit to debt. Unless our states free themselves from the massive debt that government unions have created, it will become increasingly difficult for government to afford the basic services they are supposed to provide, let alone money pits like the Hudson River Tunnel.

Brooks laments the fact that the left won’t make the hard choices about which government expenditures to prioritize. But the problem here isn’t about priorities but a liberal philosophy that wants no limits on government’s power to spend and therefore tax. Under these circumstances, commonsense conservatives like Christie have no choice but to simply draw a line in the sand and say “no” to the tunnel.

After several hysterical pieces in the New York Times denouncing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s refusal to sink his state deeper in debt to build a train tunnel to New York, David Brooks attempts to inject a little sanity into the debate in his column today. His colleagues Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert waxed hysterical about the decision, claiming that the governor’s reluctance to spend billions on the tunnel that the state doesn’t have is based on irrational hatred of government.

Both claim that the refusal is based on a lack of vision and imagination and bespeaks a smallness of spirit. But, of course, this is pure hyperbole, with Krugman claiming that the cause of potentially making his (and mine, as I wrote last week) commute a bit quicker is comparable to building the Erie Canal or the Hoover Dam, projects that transformed the American economy and its history.

Krugman downplays the cost overruns on the project (which even Christie’s much greater estimates almost certainly underestimate) and claims that New Jersey was getting a bargain; but when all is said and done, what Christie has refused to do is to spend $8 billion or more to get $3 billion in federal money. I guess you have to have won a Nobel Prize in economics to think that’s a bargain. Herbert laments the loss of 6,000 construction jobs involved in the tunnel’s cancellation but fails to note that at $1 million+ per job, what we’re talking about here is a boondoggle that might have made Tony Soprano’s fictional mobster exploitation of “The Esplanade” look like small change.

Brooks acknowledges that the tunnel is needed but rightly notes that the state’s inability to afford it stems from the fact that our states and municipalities are drowning in debt largely generated by the costs of paying government employees and their pensions (an issue that Jeff Jacoby explores at length in this month’s issue of COMMENTARY). It’s all well and good to say that big infrastructure projects are exactly the sort of thing government should be doing, but the liberal addiction to public-sector spending has made that impossible. And the public-sector unions that dominate the Democratic Party make sure this never changes.

One reader reacted to my earlier post on this subject by claiming that what Christie has done is to try and live without debt, a bad policy for any government, business, or family. In fact, what Christie is attempting to do is establish the principle that there must be a limit to debt. Unless our states free themselves from the massive debt that government unions have created, it will become increasingly difficult for government to afford the basic services they are supposed to provide, let alone money pits like the Hudson River Tunnel.

Brooks laments the fact that the left won’t make the hard choices about which government expenditures to prioritize. But the problem here isn’t about priorities but a liberal philosophy that wants no limits on government’s power to spend and therefore tax. Under these circumstances, commonsense conservatives like Christie have no choice but to simply draw a line in the sand and say “no” to the tunnel.

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Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert, Meet Henry Graham

Both Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert last week bemoaned the decision by Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey to put the kibosh on a multi-billion-dollar project to build a second railroad tunnel under the Hudson River. The project, which was originally budgeted at $8.7 billion had crept up — in the time-honored way of government projects — to over $11 billion, and many thought it would reach $14 billion before all was said and done. New Jersey would have been responsible for much of the cost overruns, and Governor Christie thought the state, deeply mired in debt already, could not afford it. And so he killed the project.

The tunnel, to be sure, is no bridge to nowhere. The century-old tunnel now in place is very inadequate to handle the rapidly growing traffic between the country’s most densely populated state and its largest city. Krugman and Herbert both called the cancellation the end of the can-do American spirit, a failure of imagination, a disgrace. Krugman wrote:

It was a destructive and incredibly foolish decision on multiple levels. But it shouldn’t have been all that surprising. We are no longer the nation that used to amaze the world with its visionary projects. We have become, instead, a nation whose politicians seem to compete over who can show the least vision, the least concern about the future and the greatest willingness to pander to short-term, narrow-minded selfishness.

Herbert wrote:

This is a railroad tunnel we’re talking about. We’re not trying to go to the Moon. This is not the Manhattan Project. It’s a railroad tunnel that’s needed to take people back and forth to work and to ease the pressure on the existing tunnel, a wilting two-track facility that’s about 100 years old. What is the matter with us? The Chinese could build it. The Turks could build it. We can’t build it.

Krugman and Herbert remind me of the Walter Matthau character in a delightful if now long-forgotten movie called A New Leaf, written, directed, and co-starring Elaine May. Matthau’s character, Henry Graham, has been private-jet-and-yacht rich all his life but has, unknowingly, run through all his money. When he tries to cash a check at his bank and is told that there are insufficient funds to cover it, he is simply unable to process the information. Whenever he had wanted money before, he had simply written a check and taken the money. Now, suddenly, he can’t do that, and he is utterly befuddled.

When we began the Interstate Highway System, the national debt was about 60 percent of GDP and falling. We had run budget surpluses in seven of the previous 10 years. When we went to the moon, the national debt was 39 percent of GDP and falling. It is now over 90 percent and rising rapidly. And the move from 40 percent of GDP to 90 percent was not because of moon shots or Manhattan Projects. It was so no one in Washington (and many state capitals) ever had to say no to anyone, especially public-service unions. In effect, we spent the money on the political equivalent of wine, women, and song, just as Henry Graham had spent his.

And like Henry Graham, Krugman, Herbert, and the business-as-usual political establishment they speak for are unable to process the information that there is a limit to the debt burden even so fabulously rich a country as the United States can bear without disastrous consequences, and that we are getting perilously close to that limit.

The people of New Jersey had processed that information, and that’s why they elected Governor Christie. I suspect that people in the rest of the country have also processed it, and that’s why the political establishment is going to get clobbered in three weeks.

Both Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert last week bemoaned the decision by Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey to put the kibosh on a multi-billion-dollar project to build a second railroad tunnel under the Hudson River. The project, which was originally budgeted at $8.7 billion had crept up — in the time-honored way of government projects — to over $11 billion, and many thought it would reach $14 billion before all was said and done. New Jersey would have been responsible for much of the cost overruns, and Governor Christie thought the state, deeply mired in debt already, could not afford it. And so he killed the project.

The tunnel, to be sure, is no bridge to nowhere. The century-old tunnel now in place is very inadequate to handle the rapidly growing traffic between the country’s most densely populated state and its largest city. Krugman and Herbert both called the cancellation the end of the can-do American spirit, a failure of imagination, a disgrace. Krugman wrote:

It was a destructive and incredibly foolish decision on multiple levels. But it shouldn’t have been all that surprising. We are no longer the nation that used to amaze the world with its visionary projects. We have become, instead, a nation whose politicians seem to compete over who can show the least vision, the least concern about the future and the greatest willingness to pander to short-term, narrow-minded selfishness.

Herbert wrote:

This is a railroad tunnel we’re talking about. We’re not trying to go to the Moon. This is not the Manhattan Project. It’s a railroad tunnel that’s needed to take people back and forth to work and to ease the pressure on the existing tunnel, a wilting two-track facility that’s about 100 years old. What is the matter with us? The Chinese could build it. The Turks could build it. We can’t build it.

Krugman and Herbert remind me of the Walter Matthau character in a delightful if now long-forgotten movie called A New Leaf, written, directed, and co-starring Elaine May. Matthau’s character, Henry Graham, has been private-jet-and-yacht rich all his life but has, unknowingly, run through all his money. When he tries to cash a check at his bank and is told that there are insufficient funds to cover it, he is simply unable to process the information. Whenever he had wanted money before, he had simply written a check and taken the money. Now, suddenly, he can’t do that, and he is utterly befuddled.

When we began the Interstate Highway System, the national debt was about 60 percent of GDP and falling. We had run budget surpluses in seven of the previous 10 years. When we went to the moon, the national debt was 39 percent of GDP and falling. It is now over 90 percent and rising rapidly. And the move from 40 percent of GDP to 90 percent was not because of moon shots or Manhattan Projects. It was so no one in Washington (and many state capitals) ever had to say no to anyone, especially public-service unions. In effect, we spent the money on the political equivalent of wine, women, and song, just as Henry Graham had spent his.

And like Henry Graham, Krugman, Herbert, and the business-as-usual political establishment they speak for are unable to process the information that there is a limit to the debt burden even so fabulously rich a country as the United States can bear without disastrous consequences, and that we are getting perilously close to that limit.

The people of New Jersey had processed that information, and that’s why they elected Governor Christie. I suspect that people in the rest of the country have also processed it, and that’s why the political establishment is going to get clobbered in three weeks.

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A Novel Idea: Pay-as-You-Go Government

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is still acting as if he means what he says about controlling the costs of government. By canceling the long-planned construction of a second commuter tunnel under the Hudson River today, Christie has reaffirmed the principle that government should not try to do more than it can afford. A close look at the finances of the scheme showed that cost overruns were likely to send the bill on the project to as much as $14 billion, almost $6 billion more than the original estimate. That means that New Jersey — which is to say, New Jersey’s taxpayers — would have to pay at least $8 billion of that amount, the remainder being contributed by New York’s Port Authority and the federal government. But in the absence of givebacks by the state’s civil-service unions, whose contracts and pensions threaten to send the state into the red even if the tunnel were not to be paid for, Christie said no, to the utter consternation of the unions, the rest of the political class, and New York Times‘s columnist Paul Krugman.

Other politicians (like Christie’s predecessor Jon Corzine, who authorized ground breaking on the project without thinking about the costs to the taxpayers) are shocked by Christie’s chutzpah. The idea that government should only undertake those projects it can pay for without having to further bilk the taxpayers is considered a shocking concept.

Krugman, the Times editorial page, the unions, and many of the politicians who have worked for this project all think the mere fact that the tunnel is needed justifies any amount of debt to build it. They also seem to think that worrying about where the extra $6 billion will come from is just silly.

They are right in that a new tunnel is desperately needed. New Jersey Transit is currently forced to share one Hudson River tunnel that is owned by Amtrak. The result is massive congestion and delays that will only get worse in the years to come. Even worse, since Amtrak owns the tunnel, to the injury of those commuters who take NJ Transit, the worst commuter line in the region (in terms of its on-time record), is added the insult of often having to wait for long periods while Amtrak trains breeze through — Amtrak always getting priority from the dispatchers. This means that there is a large (and generally ill-tempered) constituency of commuters who would like to see the tunnel built. Among them is Krugman, who confessed on his blog that: “And yes, if anyone should mention it, I am a resident of New Jersey who often visits Manhattan, and therefore has a personal stake in this project. You got a problem with that?”

As it happens, I, too, am a daily NJ Transit commuter into New York. But as much as the prospect of a better train ride in the distant future appeals to me, I’d bet that the majority of disgruntled and delayed passengers would prefer not to have their taxes raised. Nor would they like Krugman’s suggestion that Christie radically raise gasoline taxes to pay for the cost overruns, since almost all of them drive their cars to the train stations from which they start and end their daily trek to work. Voters are sick and tired of tax-and-spend politicians who think nothing about the long-term consequences of their largesse, so long as someone else is paying for it.

Christie will probably take a lot of flak for his decision, perhaps even more than the criticism he took for his confrontation with the state’s teacher unions. But the bet here is that the majority of the people of New Jersey — including many of those unhappy souls who are forced to take NJ Transit — prefer to have a governor who doesn’t think he has a right to pick their pockets in order to play the hero by championing expensive projects. In case Krugman forgot, that’s the reason Christie was elected last year and why so many other fiscal conservatives will rout free-spending liberals in the congressional elections this fall. And whether or not Krugman has a problem with that, it’s what we Americans call democracy.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is still acting as if he means what he says about controlling the costs of government. By canceling the long-planned construction of a second commuter tunnel under the Hudson River today, Christie has reaffirmed the principle that government should not try to do more than it can afford. A close look at the finances of the scheme showed that cost overruns were likely to send the bill on the project to as much as $14 billion, almost $6 billion more than the original estimate. That means that New Jersey — which is to say, New Jersey’s taxpayers — would have to pay at least $8 billion of that amount, the remainder being contributed by New York’s Port Authority and the federal government. But in the absence of givebacks by the state’s civil-service unions, whose contracts and pensions threaten to send the state into the red even if the tunnel were not to be paid for, Christie said no, to the utter consternation of the unions, the rest of the political class, and New York Times‘s columnist Paul Krugman.

Other politicians (like Christie’s predecessor Jon Corzine, who authorized ground breaking on the project without thinking about the costs to the taxpayers) are shocked by Christie’s chutzpah. The idea that government should only undertake those projects it can pay for without having to further bilk the taxpayers is considered a shocking concept.

Krugman, the Times editorial page, the unions, and many of the politicians who have worked for this project all think the mere fact that the tunnel is needed justifies any amount of debt to build it. They also seem to think that worrying about where the extra $6 billion will come from is just silly.

They are right in that a new tunnel is desperately needed. New Jersey Transit is currently forced to share one Hudson River tunnel that is owned by Amtrak. The result is massive congestion and delays that will only get worse in the years to come. Even worse, since Amtrak owns the tunnel, to the injury of those commuters who take NJ Transit, the worst commuter line in the region (in terms of its on-time record), is added the insult of often having to wait for long periods while Amtrak trains breeze through — Amtrak always getting priority from the dispatchers. This means that there is a large (and generally ill-tempered) constituency of commuters who would like to see the tunnel built. Among them is Krugman, who confessed on his blog that: “And yes, if anyone should mention it, I am a resident of New Jersey who often visits Manhattan, and therefore has a personal stake in this project. You got a problem with that?”

As it happens, I, too, am a daily NJ Transit commuter into New York. But as much as the prospect of a better train ride in the distant future appeals to me, I’d bet that the majority of disgruntled and delayed passengers would prefer not to have their taxes raised. Nor would they like Krugman’s suggestion that Christie radically raise gasoline taxes to pay for the cost overruns, since almost all of them drive their cars to the train stations from which they start and end their daily trek to work. Voters are sick and tired of tax-and-spend politicians who think nothing about the long-term consequences of their largesse, so long as someone else is paying for it.

Christie will probably take a lot of flak for his decision, perhaps even more than the criticism he took for his confrontation with the state’s teacher unions. But the bet here is that the majority of the people of New Jersey — including many of those unhappy souls who are forced to take NJ Transit — prefer to have a governor who doesn’t think he has a right to pick their pockets in order to play the hero by championing expensive projects. In case Krugman forgot, that’s the reason Christie was elected last year and why so many other fiscal conservatives will rout free-spending liberals in the congressional elections this fall. And whether or not Krugman has a problem with that, it’s what we Americans call democracy.

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Double Standards Regarding Political Civility

Courtesy of Hotair comes this clip of MSNBC’s Ed Schultz at the “One Nation” rally this weekend. I do hope that liberals who are so eager to argue for civility in public discourse might have a word or two to say about Mr. Schultz, who, among other things, refers to conservatives as the “forces of evil” and says that while conservatives talk about our forefathers, “they want discrimination.”

Now, I don’t expect much more from someone like Ed Schultz. But liberal commentators (E.J. Dionne, Jr., Eugene Robinson, Tom Friedman, Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, Frank Rich, Jonathan Alter, and Jim Wallis, for starters) who complain about political discourse only when the offending parties are on the right would do themselves and the nation a favor if they spoke out against haters such as Schultz and Representative Alan Grayson. (Grayson’s deeply dishonest and repulsive ad, accusing his opponent of being “Taliban Dan Webster,” can be found here.)

If pundits like E.J. Dionne and others remain silent when people who share their philosophical and ideological precepts cross the line, then it’s reasonable to assume, I think, that their counsel for civility is being driven by partisan impulses rather than a genuine concern about the quality of public discourse.

Courtesy of Hotair comes this clip of MSNBC’s Ed Schultz at the “One Nation” rally this weekend. I do hope that liberals who are so eager to argue for civility in public discourse might have a word or two to say about Mr. Schultz, who, among other things, refers to conservatives as the “forces of evil” and says that while conservatives talk about our forefathers, “they want discrimination.”

Now, I don’t expect much more from someone like Ed Schultz. But liberal commentators (E.J. Dionne, Jr., Eugene Robinson, Tom Friedman, Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, Frank Rich, Jonathan Alter, and Jim Wallis, for starters) who complain about political discourse only when the offending parties are on the right would do themselves and the nation a favor if they spoke out against haters such as Schultz and Representative Alan Grayson. (Grayson’s deeply dishonest and repulsive ad, accusing his opponent of being “Taliban Dan Webster,” can be found here.)

If pundits like E.J. Dionne and others remain silent when people who share their philosophical and ideological precepts cross the line, then it’s reasonable to assume, I think, that their counsel for civility is being driven by partisan impulses rather than a genuine concern about the quality of public discourse.

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Deconstructing Krugman

Among the left in particular, Paul Krugman is an influential writer on economics and politics. Fortunately there are reasonable and informed voices to counter his arguments, his economic theories, and his version of economic history. One such voice is Amity Shlaes, who deconstructs Krugman’s most recent column (“1938 in 2010”) over at the excellent (and increasingly influential) website e21.

Shlaes’s posting can be found here.

Among the left in particular, Paul Krugman is an influential writer on economics and politics. Fortunately there are reasonable and informed voices to counter his arguments, his economic theories, and his version of economic history. One such voice is Amity Shlaes, who deconstructs Krugman’s most recent column (“1938 in 2010”) over at the excellent (and increasingly influential) website e21.

Shlaes’s posting can be found here.

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Liberalism’s Existential Crisis

As the Obama presidency and the Democratic Party continue their journey into the Slough of Despond, it’s interesting to watch Obama’ supporters try to process the unfolding events.

Some blame it on a failure to communicate. E.J. Dionne, Jr., for example, ascribes the Democrats’ problems to the fact that Obama “has chosen not to engage the nation in an extended dialogue about what holds all his achievements together.” Joe Klein offers this explanation: “If Obama is not reelected, it will be because he comes across as disdaining what he does for a living.” And John Judis points to the Obama administration’s “aversion to populism.”

Others are aiming their sound and fury at the American people. According to Maureen Dowd, “Obama is the head of the dysfunctional family of America — a rational man running a most irrational nation, a high-minded man in a low-minded age. The country is having some weird mass nervous breakdown.” Jonathan Alter argues that the American people “aren’t rationally aligning belief and action; they’re tempted to lose their spleens in the polling place without fully grasping the consequences.” And Slate‘s Jacob Weisberg has written that “the biggest culprit in our current predicament” is the “childishness, ignorance, and growing incoherence of the public at large.” Read More

As the Obama presidency and the Democratic Party continue their journey into the Slough of Despond, it’s interesting to watch Obama’ supporters try to process the unfolding events.

Some blame it on a failure to communicate. E.J. Dionne, Jr., for example, ascribes the Democrats’ problems to the fact that Obama “has chosen not to engage the nation in an extended dialogue about what holds all his achievements together.” Joe Klein offers this explanation: “If Obama is not reelected, it will be because he comes across as disdaining what he does for a living.” And John Judis points to the Obama administration’s “aversion to populism.”

Others are aiming their sound and fury at the American people. According to Maureen Dowd, “Obama is the head of the dysfunctional family of America — a rational man running a most irrational nation, a high-minded man in a low-minded age. The country is having some weird mass nervous breakdown.” Jonathan Alter argues that the American people “aren’t rationally aligning belief and action; they’re tempted to lose their spleens in the polling place without fully grasping the consequences.” And Slate‘s Jacob Weisberg has written that “the biggest culprit in our current predicament” is the “childishness, ignorance, and growing incoherence of the public at large.”

For still others, Obama’s failures can be traced to James Madison. George Packer complains that Obama’s failures are in part institutional. He lists a slew of items on the liberal agenda items “the world’s greatest deliberative body is incapable of addressing.” Paul Krugman warns that the Senate is “ominously dysfunctional” and insists that the way it works is “no longer consistent with a functioning government.” For Vanity Fair’s Todd Purdum, “The evidence that Washington cannot function — that it’s ‘broken,’ as Vice President Joe Biden has said — is all around.” The modern presidency “has become a job of such gargantuan size, speed, and complexity as to be all but unrecognizable to most of the previous chief executives.”

Commentators such as the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein place responsibility on “powerful structural forces in American politics that seem to drag down first-term presidents” (though Klein does acknowledge other factors). The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait pins the blame on “structural factors” and “external factors” that have nothing to do with Obama’s policies.

Then there are those who see the pernicious vast right-wing conspiracy at work. Frank Rich alerts us to the fact that the problem lies with “the brothers David and Charles Koch,” the “sugar daddies” who are bankrolling the “white Tea Party America.” Newsweek‘s Michael Cohen has written that, “Perhaps the greatest hindrance to good governance today is the Republican Party, which has adopted an agenda of pure nihilism for naked political gain.” And Mr. Krugman offers this analysis: “What we learned from the Clinton years is that a significant number of Americans just don’t consider government by liberals — even very moderate liberals — legitimate. Mr. Obama’s election would have enraged those people even if he were white. Of course, the fact that he isn’t, and has an alien-sounding name, adds to the rage.” Krugman goes on to warn that “powerful forces are promoting and exploiting this rage” — including the “right-wing media.” And if they come to gain power, “It will be an ugly scene, and it will be dangerous, too.”

What most of these commentators are missing, I think, are two essential points. First, the public is turning against Obama and the Democratic Party because the economy is sick and, despite his assurances and projections, the president hasn’t been able to make it well. And in some important respects, especially on fiscal matters, the president and the 111th Congress have made things considerably worse. Second, an increasing number of Americans believe Obama’s policies are unwise, ineffective, and much too liberal. They connect the bad results we are seeing in America to what Obama is doing to America.

But there’s something else, and something deeper, going on here. All of us who embrace a particular religious or philosophical worldview should be prepared to judge them in light of empirical facts and reality. What if our theories seem to be failing in the real world?

The truth is that it’s rather rare to find people willing to reexamine or reinterpret their most deeply held beliefs when the mounting evidence calls those beliefs into question. That is something most of us (myself included) battle with: How to be a person of principled convictions while being intellectually honest enough to acknowledge when certain propositions (and, in some instances, foundational policies) seem to be failing or falling short.

It’s quite possible, of course, that one’s basic convictions can remain true even when events go badly. Self-government is still the best form of government even if it might fail in one nation or another. And sometimes it is simply a matter of weathering storms until certain first principles are reaffirmed. At the same time, sometimes we hold to theories that are simply wrong, that are contrary to human nature and the way the world works, but we simply can’t let go of them. We have too much invested in a particular philosophy.

President Obama’s liberal supporters understand that he is in serious trouble right now; what they are doing is scrambling to find some way to explain his problems without calling into question their underlying political philosophy (modern liberalism). If what is happening cannot be a fundamental failure of liberalism, then it must be something else — from a “communications problem” to “structural factors” to a political conspiracy. And you can bet that if things continue on their present course, ideologues on the left will increasingly argue that Obama’s failures stem from his being (a) not liberal enough or (b) incompetent.

If the Obama presidency is seen as damaging the larger liberal project, they will abandon Obama in order to try to protect liberalism. They would rather do that than face an existential crisis.

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Sticking with a Losing Economic Plan

Stephen Hayes reminds us that none other than Obama once warned us of the folly of raising taxes in a recession:

Barack Obama understands that it’s bad economics to raise taxes in a recession. It’s “the last thing you want to do,” he said almost exactly one year ago. … Obama was blunt: “Well — first of all, he’s right. Normally you don’t raise taxes in a recession, which is why we haven’t and why we’ve instead cut taxes. So I guess what I’d say to [Elkhart, Indiana resident] Scott [Ferguson] is — his economics are right. You don’t raise taxes in a recession. We haven’t raised taxes in a recession.”

But the Obama team insists, contrary to much available evidence, that we’re in the midst of a recovery — so we can tolerate the liberals’ mischief-making:

When he was asked specifically about raising taxes on top income earners, as is scheduled to happen on January 1, 2011, [Tim] Geithner said, “The country can withstand that. The economy can withstand that. I think it’s good policy.”

It was an interesting word choice: “withstand” a tax hike? So the U.S. economy is strong enough to endure the additional constraints the Obama administration wants to place on it in pursuit of its redistributionist goals? This is the triumph of ideology over economics.

Obama and his brain trust not only ignore their own country’s experience and struggling economy, but also turn a blind eye toward the counter-example in Germany, which resisted Obama’s exhortations to get the government to spend (actually, borrow in order to spend) its nation out of the recession. Germany’s economic recovery (on track for 9 percent annual growth) should serve as a lesson to those still enamored of Obamanomics:

Germany has sparred with its European partners over how to respond to the financial crisis, argued with the United States over the benefits of stimulus versus austerity, and defiantly pursued its own vision of how to keep its economy strong. … By paring unemployment benefits, easing rules for hiring and firing, and management and labor’s working together to keep a lid on wages, Germany ensured that it could again export its way to growth with competitive, nimble companies producing the cars and machine tools the world’s economies — emerging and developed alike — demanded.

When Paul Krugman comes out of hiding, I look forward to his explanation of this one.

Maybe some restraints on spending, some pro-growth and pro-job-creation policies, and a halt to tax increases might be in order. Nah, the Obami insist they have everything under control.

Stephen Hayes reminds us that none other than Obama once warned us of the folly of raising taxes in a recession:

Barack Obama understands that it’s bad economics to raise taxes in a recession. It’s “the last thing you want to do,” he said almost exactly one year ago. … Obama was blunt: “Well — first of all, he’s right. Normally you don’t raise taxes in a recession, which is why we haven’t and why we’ve instead cut taxes. So I guess what I’d say to [Elkhart, Indiana resident] Scott [Ferguson] is — his economics are right. You don’t raise taxes in a recession. We haven’t raised taxes in a recession.”

But the Obama team insists, contrary to much available evidence, that we’re in the midst of a recovery — so we can tolerate the liberals’ mischief-making:

When he was asked specifically about raising taxes on top income earners, as is scheduled to happen on January 1, 2011, [Tim] Geithner said, “The country can withstand that. The economy can withstand that. I think it’s good policy.”

It was an interesting word choice: “withstand” a tax hike? So the U.S. economy is strong enough to endure the additional constraints the Obama administration wants to place on it in pursuit of its redistributionist goals? This is the triumph of ideology over economics.

Obama and his brain trust not only ignore their own country’s experience and struggling economy, but also turn a blind eye toward the counter-example in Germany, which resisted Obama’s exhortations to get the government to spend (actually, borrow in order to spend) its nation out of the recession. Germany’s economic recovery (on track for 9 percent annual growth) should serve as a lesson to those still enamored of Obamanomics:

Germany has sparred with its European partners over how to respond to the financial crisis, argued with the United States over the benefits of stimulus versus austerity, and defiantly pursued its own vision of how to keep its economy strong. … By paring unemployment benefits, easing rules for hiring and firing, and management and labor’s working together to keep a lid on wages, Germany ensured that it could again export its way to growth with competitive, nimble companies producing the cars and machine tools the world’s economies — emerging and developed alike — demanded.

When Paul Krugman comes out of hiding, I look forward to his explanation of this one.

Maybe some restraints on spending, some pro-growth and pro-job-creation policies, and a halt to tax increases might be in order. Nah, the Obami insist they have everything under control.

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Krugman on Gibbs

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is angry at White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. “Denouncing the people giving voice to those real concerns as the ‘professional left’ is both unfair,” Krugman writes, “and, as I’ve said, stupid. And both the president and, more important, the country deserve better.”

In this (rare) instance, I agree with Krugman. The president and the country do deserve better than Robert Gibbs.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is angry at White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. “Denouncing the people giving voice to those real concerns as the ‘professional left’ is both unfair,” Krugman writes, “and, as I’ve said, stupid. And both the president and, more important, the country deserve better.”

In this (rare) instance, I agree with Krugman. The president and the country do deserve better than Robert Gibbs.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Candid. Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon’s interview should be read in full. A sample: “Yaalon said bluntly that he believes Iran’s regime is ‘not sure that there is a will’ on the part of the United States right now to exercise the military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities. … When asked if he felt the Obama administration was open to military action against Iran, Yaalon said that, according to the traditions of Israel’s forefathers, righteous people hope that the job might be done by others. On the other hand, he said, there is another old saying that goes like this: ‘If I’m not for myself, then who is for me?’ He added, ‘So we should be ready.'”

Intriguing. And the timing couldn’t be worse for him: “First it was President Barack Obama, then White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, now U.S. Senate Candidate Alexi Giannoulias is joining the Rod Blagojevich corruption trial subpoena list.” His opponent pours salt in the wound: “[Rep. Mark] Kirk’s campaign said the development is part of a ‘troubling pattern’ with Giannoulias that includes regulators shutting down his family’s Chicago bank in April after it failed to raise new capital. ‘Now we’ve learned Giannoulias’ name has come up on federal wire taps talking about the Illinois Senate seat and he has been subpoenaed in former and disgraced Governor Rod Blagojevich’s public corruption trial. This revelation raises additional questions about Alexi Giannoulias that he needs to answer,’ Kirk spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said in a statement.”

Effective. Timothy Dalrymple dismantles the mischaracterizations by liberal Christians of the Tea Party movement, and includes this on taxation: “To resent a tax hike (or the prospect of one) is not to neglect the needy, and to wish to retain control over the funds one has secured in order to care for one’s family is not necessarily selfish. Conservatives generally are more generous with their giving than liberals, yet they resent it when a distant bureaucracy extracts their money in order to distribute public funds to the special interest groups on whose votes and donations they rely. Conservatives would prefer that care for the needy remain as local and personal as possible.”

Curious. Who are the 32% who view Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano favorably? “Forty-two percent (42%) regard the attorney general unfavorably, with 26% who have a Very Unfavorable opinion. One-in-four voters (26%) still don’t know enough about Holder to venture any kind of opinion of him. This marks a very slight worsening of the numbers for Holder from last August just after his announcement that the Justice Department was investigating how the Bush administration treated imprisoned terrorists.”

Explosive. A Justice Department trial team lawyer goes public: “Based on my firsthand experiences, I believe the dismissal of the Black Panther case was motivated by a lawless hostility toward equal enforcement of the law. Others still within the department share my assessment. The department abetted wrongdoers and abandoned law-abiding citizens victimized by the New Black Panthers. The dismissal raises serious questions about the department’s enforcement neutrality in upcoming midterm elections and the subsequent 2012 presidential election.”

Grouchy. The left is dismayed again: “On the eve of Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings her record on race in the Clinton White House and at Harvard Law School is producing discomfort among some leading civil rights organizations, leaving them struggling to decide whether they want her to join the Supreme Court.”

Frightful. From an MIT professor: “The president should nominate Paul Krugman to replace Peter Orszag as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).” Because the deficit plainly isn’t big enough, and we’ve been too miserly in our spending.

Unfair? Maybe. Ezra Klein, who recommended Dave Weigel as a “conservative voice,” seems to have gotten away scot-free, while Weigel had to resign and his bosses had to scrape egg off their faces.

Candid. Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon’s interview should be read in full. A sample: “Yaalon said bluntly that he believes Iran’s regime is ‘not sure that there is a will’ on the part of the United States right now to exercise the military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities. … When asked if he felt the Obama administration was open to military action against Iran, Yaalon said that, according to the traditions of Israel’s forefathers, righteous people hope that the job might be done by others. On the other hand, he said, there is another old saying that goes like this: ‘If I’m not for myself, then who is for me?’ He added, ‘So we should be ready.'”

Intriguing. And the timing couldn’t be worse for him: “First it was President Barack Obama, then White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, now U.S. Senate Candidate Alexi Giannoulias is joining the Rod Blagojevich corruption trial subpoena list.” His opponent pours salt in the wound: “[Rep. Mark] Kirk’s campaign said the development is part of a ‘troubling pattern’ with Giannoulias that includes regulators shutting down his family’s Chicago bank in April after it failed to raise new capital. ‘Now we’ve learned Giannoulias’ name has come up on federal wire taps talking about the Illinois Senate seat and he has been subpoenaed in former and disgraced Governor Rod Blagojevich’s public corruption trial. This revelation raises additional questions about Alexi Giannoulias that he needs to answer,’ Kirk spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said in a statement.”

Effective. Timothy Dalrymple dismantles the mischaracterizations by liberal Christians of the Tea Party movement, and includes this on taxation: “To resent a tax hike (or the prospect of one) is not to neglect the needy, and to wish to retain control over the funds one has secured in order to care for one’s family is not necessarily selfish. Conservatives generally are more generous with their giving than liberals, yet they resent it when a distant bureaucracy extracts their money in order to distribute public funds to the special interest groups on whose votes and donations they rely. Conservatives would prefer that care for the needy remain as local and personal as possible.”

Curious. Who are the 32% who view Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano favorably? “Forty-two percent (42%) regard the attorney general unfavorably, with 26% who have a Very Unfavorable opinion. One-in-four voters (26%) still don’t know enough about Holder to venture any kind of opinion of him. This marks a very slight worsening of the numbers for Holder from last August just after his announcement that the Justice Department was investigating how the Bush administration treated imprisoned terrorists.”

Explosive. A Justice Department trial team lawyer goes public: “Based on my firsthand experiences, I believe the dismissal of the Black Panther case was motivated by a lawless hostility toward equal enforcement of the law. Others still within the department share my assessment. The department abetted wrongdoers and abandoned law-abiding citizens victimized by the New Black Panthers. The dismissal raises serious questions about the department’s enforcement neutrality in upcoming midterm elections and the subsequent 2012 presidential election.”

Grouchy. The left is dismayed again: “On the eve of Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings her record on race in the Clinton White House and at Harvard Law School is producing discomfort among some leading civil rights organizations, leaving them struggling to decide whether they want her to join the Supreme Court.”

Frightful. From an MIT professor: “The president should nominate Paul Krugman to replace Peter Orszag as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).” Because the deficit plainly isn’t big enough, and we’ve been too miserly in our spending.

Unfair? Maybe. Ezra Klein, who recommended Dave Weigel as a “conservative voice,” seems to have gotten away scot-free, while Weigel had to resign and his bosses had to scrape egg off their faces.

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RE: Bullying in the Name of Financial Regulation

A reader calls my attention to Paul Krugman’s column. Krugman gets his share of criticism around here, so it’s only fair to point out when, as the reader put, he “actually makes sense.”

He gets points by conceding the point I raised: “When Goldman Sachs employees bragged about the money they had made by shorting the housing market, it was ugly, but that didn’t amount to wrongdoing.” I don’t concede it’s all that ugly, but for Krugman, that’s a step away from the populist drooling that has transfixed most of the media.

He then goes on to make a helpful suggestion:

No, the e-mail messages you should be focusing on are the ones from employees at the credit rating agencies, which bestowed AAA ratings on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of dubious assets, nearly all of which have since turned out to be toxic waste. And no, that’s not hyperbole: of AAA-rated subprime-mortgage-backed securities issued in 2006, 93 percent — 93 percent! — have now been downgraded to junk status.

What those e-mails reveal is a deeply corrupt system. And it’s a system that financial reform, as currently proposed, wouldn’t fix.

The rating agencies began as market researchers, selling assessments of corporate debt to people considering whether to buy that debt. Eventually, however, they morphed into something quite different: companies that were hired by the people selling debt to give that debt a seal of approval.

This at least seems to be an area worth exploring in greater depth. But as Krugman points out, the current legislation doesn’t do much about this issue. (“The only provision that might have teeth is one that would make it easier to sue rating agencies if they engaged in ‘knowing or reckless failure’ to do the right thing. But that surely isn’t enough, given the money at stake — and the fact that Wall Street can afford to hire very, very good lawyers.”)

One problem with huge reform efforts is that they usually focus on the wrong problem. In this case, the frenzy to eliminate risk — an impossibility if one wants to preserve entrepreneurial dynamism — has obscured more productive activities, including reduction or elimination of conflicts of interest, which is a worthy legislation goal. But “increasing rating companies’ independence” doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as “going after Wall Street greed.” So we never quite get around to it.

A reader calls my attention to Paul Krugman’s column. Krugman gets his share of criticism around here, so it’s only fair to point out when, as the reader put, he “actually makes sense.”

He gets points by conceding the point I raised: “When Goldman Sachs employees bragged about the money they had made by shorting the housing market, it was ugly, but that didn’t amount to wrongdoing.” I don’t concede it’s all that ugly, but for Krugman, that’s a step away from the populist drooling that has transfixed most of the media.

He then goes on to make a helpful suggestion:

No, the e-mail messages you should be focusing on are the ones from employees at the credit rating agencies, which bestowed AAA ratings on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of dubious assets, nearly all of which have since turned out to be toxic waste. And no, that’s not hyperbole: of AAA-rated subprime-mortgage-backed securities issued in 2006, 93 percent — 93 percent! — have now been downgraded to junk status.

What those e-mails reveal is a deeply corrupt system. And it’s a system that financial reform, as currently proposed, wouldn’t fix.

The rating agencies began as market researchers, selling assessments of corporate debt to people considering whether to buy that debt. Eventually, however, they morphed into something quite different: companies that were hired by the people selling debt to give that debt a seal of approval.

This at least seems to be an area worth exploring in greater depth. But as Krugman points out, the current legislation doesn’t do much about this issue. (“The only provision that might have teeth is one that would make it easier to sue rating agencies if they engaged in ‘knowing or reckless failure’ to do the right thing. But that surely isn’t enough, given the money at stake — and the fact that Wall Street can afford to hire very, very good lawyers.”)

One problem with huge reform efforts is that they usually focus on the wrong problem. In this case, the frenzy to eliminate risk — an impossibility if one wants to preserve entrepreneurial dynamism — has obscured more productive activities, including reduction or elimination of conflicts of interest, which is a worthy legislation goal. But “increasing rating companies’ independence” doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as “going after Wall Street greed.” So we never quite get around to it.

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Unemployment Insurance I

If an astronomer were to casually claim that Ptolemy was right and the sun revolves around the earth, or if a paleontologist were to suddenly subscribe to Archbishop Ussher’s idea that the world was created as we know it now in the night preceding October 23, 4004 BCE, they would be laughed out of their disciplines. The evidence for the modern understanding of such matters is, after all, overwhelming. So to make such a claim would require massive and unequivocal data to back it up.

However, if an economist does the equivalent, the entire profession, instead of collapsing in laughter, says, ” . . . . oh, look! A squirrel!” Economists, it seems, suffer no loss of respect by their peers if they utter ex cathedra pronouncements that are in flat contradiction of the most basic tenets of the discipline. All they have to do is to be advancing a political agenda at the time, and all — no matter how ridiculous — is forgiven.

When Senator John Kyl said that “continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work,” Paul Krugman wrote in his New York Times column “To me, that’s a bizarre point of view — but then, I don’t live in Mr. Kyl’s universe.”

Really? Here’s what Paul Krugman wrote in his own textbook, Macroeconomics:

Public policy designed to help workers who lose their jobs can lead to structural unemployment as an unintended side effect. … In other countries, particularly in Europe, benefits are more generous and last longer. The drawback to this generosity is that it reduces a worker’s incentive to quickly find a new job. Generous unemployment benefits in some European countries are widely believed to be one of the main causes of “Eurosclerosis,” the persistent high unemployment that affects a number of European countries.

As James Taranto pointed out, “It seems Krugman himself lives in two different universes — the universe of the academic economist and the universe of the bitter partisan columnist.”

When the Wall Street Journal noted last week that extending unemployment benefits tends to keep unemployment high by reducing the incentive to look for work — and quoted Lawrence Summers, writing in 1999, to that effect — they received a furious letter from Mr. Summers, now head of Obama’s National Economic Council. The Wall Street Journal had a field day in response, pointing out that,

The Summers argument is that increasing unemployment insurance increases aggregate demand and thus reduces unemployment. This is because he and the neo-Keynesians believe that the impact on macroeconomic demand of this jobless spending outweighs the microeconomic harm on individual incentives. In other words, if government pays people for not working, then more people will work. Subsidize unemployment and you will somehow get less of it.

Summers’s idea is the economic equivalent of a perpetual motion machine.

If economists want to get the same respect that people give to real scientists, they are going to have start behaving like real scientists. They have to denounce nonsense from a fellow economist when they hear it, even if that economist is wearing a political hat rather than an academic one.

If an astronomer were to casually claim that Ptolemy was right and the sun revolves around the earth, or if a paleontologist were to suddenly subscribe to Archbishop Ussher’s idea that the world was created as we know it now in the night preceding October 23, 4004 BCE, they would be laughed out of their disciplines. The evidence for the modern understanding of such matters is, after all, overwhelming. So to make such a claim would require massive and unequivocal data to back it up.

However, if an economist does the equivalent, the entire profession, instead of collapsing in laughter, says, ” . . . . oh, look! A squirrel!” Economists, it seems, suffer no loss of respect by their peers if they utter ex cathedra pronouncements that are in flat contradiction of the most basic tenets of the discipline. All they have to do is to be advancing a political agenda at the time, and all — no matter how ridiculous — is forgiven.

When Senator John Kyl said that “continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work,” Paul Krugman wrote in his New York Times column “To me, that’s a bizarre point of view — but then, I don’t live in Mr. Kyl’s universe.”

Really? Here’s what Paul Krugman wrote in his own textbook, Macroeconomics:

Public policy designed to help workers who lose their jobs can lead to structural unemployment as an unintended side effect. … In other countries, particularly in Europe, benefits are more generous and last longer. The drawback to this generosity is that it reduces a worker’s incentive to quickly find a new job. Generous unemployment benefits in some European countries are widely believed to be one of the main causes of “Eurosclerosis,” the persistent high unemployment that affects a number of European countries.

As James Taranto pointed out, “It seems Krugman himself lives in two different universes — the universe of the academic economist and the universe of the bitter partisan columnist.”

When the Wall Street Journal noted last week that extending unemployment benefits tends to keep unemployment high by reducing the incentive to look for work — and quoted Lawrence Summers, writing in 1999, to that effect — they received a furious letter from Mr. Summers, now head of Obama’s National Economic Council. The Wall Street Journal had a field day in response, pointing out that,

The Summers argument is that increasing unemployment insurance increases aggregate demand and thus reduces unemployment. This is because he and the neo-Keynesians believe that the impact on macroeconomic demand of this jobless spending outweighs the microeconomic harm on individual incentives. In other words, if government pays people for not working, then more people will work. Subsidize unemployment and you will somehow get less of it.

Summers’s idea is the economic equivalent of a perpetual motion machine.

If economists want to get the same respect that people give to real scientists, they are going to have start behaving like real scientists. They have to denounce nonsense from a fellow economist when they hear it, even if that economist is wearing a political hat rather than an academic one.

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Pointing the Finger at Big Government

Earlier this week, Peter Wallison presented a contrarian speech at the Hudson Institute, New York, detailing how the financial crisis was caused by government policy — not Wall Street greed, or the interconnectedness of financial institutions, or insufficient regulation, or any of the other political scapegoats blamed promiscuously throughout the collapse. (You can find a more detailed, albeit older, version of Wallison’s argument here.)

Most striking was Wallison’s condemnation of the Community Reinvestment Act and the like, which he says arm-twisted financial institutions into knowingly making bad investments, giving funds (subprime and Alt-A loans) to home buyers who were obviously unlikely to ever pay the money back. Those investments — which substantially underpinned the economy — were almost certain to fail from the beginning.

If Wallison is right, the Community Reinvestment Act is a smoking gun, and the hand holding it belongs to Uncle Sam.

To blame the Community Reinvestment Act is not, by any stretch, a new idea. And, not surprising, it has been disputed by Paul Krugman and economists from the Federal Reserve and the FDIC.

But the idea is worth mentioning because conservatives are unnecessarily losing ground in the public arena. Enemies of the free market have made their case with evocative, emotionally charged talking points. They stir public discontent by showing glamorized men of wealth and taste who travel in private planes, sipping champagne and cognac while America burns.

Blaming regulation is less sexy for sure. It’s also more vague. How much of the public can cite the specific ways the government has meddled in the market? How much of the public knows about encroachments like the Community Reinvestment Act?

But especially after ObamaCare, angry citizens want specific talking points. And overreaching politicians are as provocative and sinister as any Wall Street demon. Wallison also noted that if the government really wanted to subsidize housing, it should have done so honestly — by putting the funds to do so on the budget. Instead, it chose to coerce financial institutions to do its dirty work. Conservatives need to point to the regulatory causes — the Community Reinvestment Act being one of many examples — and make their case.

Wallison’s argument is timely because, as part of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, tasked with exploring the origins of the crisis, he’ll be fighting to present his explanation to Congress on Dec. 15, 2010. He’s outnumbered by Democrats on the commission, who might dominate the written report, in which case his ideas will be presented in dissent.

When Congress considers what caused the financial crisis, conservatives should pay attention. Even if those like Wallison must speak as a dissenting minority, there’s an opportunity to revive dinner-table debate. And as elections approach, it’s important to convince Main Street of the truth Wall Street already knows.

Earlier this week, Peter Wallison presented a contrarian speech at the Hudson Institute, New York, detailing how the financial crisis was caused by government policy — not Wall Street greed, or the interconnectedness of financial institutions, or insufficient regulation, or any of the other political scapegoats blamed promiscuously throughout the collapse. (You can find a more detailed, albeit older, version of Wallison’s argument here.)

Most striking was Wallison’s condemnation of the Community Reinvestment Act and the like, which he says arm-twisted financial institutions into knowingly making bad investments, giving funds (subprime and Alt-A loans) to home buyers who were obviously unlikely to ever pay the money back. Those investments — which substantially underpinned the economy — were almost certain to fail from the beginning.

If Wallison is right, the Community Reinvestment Act is a smoking gun, and the hand holding it belongs to Uncle Sam.

To blame the Community Reinvestment Act is not, by any stretch, a new idea. And, not surprising, it has been disputed by Paul Krugman and economists from the Federal Reserve and the FDIC.

But the idea is worth mentioning because conservatives are unnecessarily losing ground in the public arena. Enemies of the free market have made their case with evocative, emotionally charged talking points. They stir public discontent by showing glamorized men of wealth and taste who travel in private planes, sipping champagne and cognac while America burns.

Blaming regulation is less sexy for sure. It’s also more vague. How much of the public can cite the specific ways the government has meddled in the market? How much of the public knows about encroachments like the Community Reinvestment Act?

But especially after ObamaCare, angry citizens want specific talking points. And overreaching politicians are as provocative and sinister as any Wall Street demon. Wallison also noted that if the government really wanted to subsidize housing, it should have done so honestly — by putting the funds to do so on the budget. Instead, it chose to coerce financial institutions to do its dirty work. Conservatives need to point to the regulatory causes — the Community Reinvestment Act being one of many examples — and make their case.

Wallison’s argument is timely because, as part of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, tasked with exploring the origins of the crisis, he’ll be fighting to present his explanation to Congress on Dec. 15, 2010. He’s outnumbered by Democrats on the commission, who might dominate the written report, in which case his ideas will be presented in dissent.

When Congress considers what caused the financial crisis, conservatives should pay attention. Even if those like Wallison must speak as a dissenting minority, there’s an opportunity to revive dinner-table debate. And as elections approach, it’s important to convince Main Street of the truth Wall Street already knows.

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What an Economist Thinks Poetry Is

There’s an eye-opening profile of Paul Krugman, the economist and lickspittle New York Times columnist, in the New Yorker this week. (Among its revelations: He became an economist owing to a character in an Isaac Asimov novel; his future wife was so angry when Ronald Reagan was elected president that she left the country for England; and he thought his life was in danger because people wrote him angry e-mails about some columns after 9/11.)

The most interesting detail in the piece has to do with Krugman’s academic work, which won him a Nobel Prize. Evidently, it is actually entirely commonsensical and not all that surprising in its exploration of the reasons why some businesses develop in certain places — but it was outside the norm for academic economists and so it blew them away. His particular gift, according to the piece, was his ability to translate lucid ideas into mathematical formulae; you would think the reverse would be the case for a genuinely significant contribution to the world of ideas, but never mind. Here is the Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff describing Krugman’s accomplishment:

“It’s poetry,” Kenneth Rogoff, an economist at Harvard, says. “I mean, you go back to his first book and there was this beautiful chart about what the Volcker contraction did to output that swept aside so much—he just drew this little graph which really cleared the air. I’ve heard economists use the word ‘poet’ in describing him for decades.”

Yes. A beautiful chart about the Volcker contraction. That’s just what I think of when I see the word poetry.

There’s an eye-opening profile of Paul Krugman, the economist and lickspittle New York Times columnist, in the New Yorker this week. (Among its revelations: He became an economist owing to a character in an Isaac Asimov novel; his future wife was so angry when Ronald Reagan was elected president that she left the country for England; and he thought his life was in danger because people wrote him angry e-mails about some columns after 9/11.)

The most interesting detail in the piece has to do with Krugman’s academic work, which won him a Nobel Prize. Evidently, it is actually entirely commonsensical and not all that surprising in its exploration of the reasons why some businesses develop in certain places — but it was outside the norm for academic economists and so it blew them away. His particular gift, according to the piece, was his ability to translate lucid ideas into mathematical formulae; you would think the reverse would be the case for a genuinely significant contribution to the world of ideas, but never mind. Here is the Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff describing Krugman’s accomplishment:

“It’s poetry,” Kenneth Rogoff, an economist at Harvard, says. “I mean, you go back to his first book and there was this beautiful chart about what the Volcker contraction did to output that swept aside so much—he just drew this little graph which really cleared the air. I’ve heard economists use the word ‘poet’ in describing him for decades.”

Yes. A beautiful chart about the Volcker contraction. That’s just what I think of when I see the word poetry.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It’s about time someone took it to Meghan McCain: “She’s an über-cool politics chick with lots to say of the conventional-thinking NYTimesish variety, and she’s got credulous lefties lapping up her disses of conservatives like kittens at cream bowls.” And what better way to get that attention than to diss the woman who drives liberals mad? Funny how liberal pundits whine that the former governor, who has articulated positions on a range of issues, doesn’t “know anything,” but they’re willing to spend endless hours talking to a 25-year-old who’s, well, never done anything.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus has the goods on the latest J Street scam: “In short, J Street manipulated the Hillel of Greater Philadelphia (of which I am a board member) into leasing to them space in the Hillel building for their J Street Local launch by entering into a firm agreement, and then ignoring that agreement to Hillel’s detriment. J Street’s deception made Hillel’s carefully planned and extensive pre-event efforts to soothe concerned donors, students, and others that there was no—and that it would be made very clear that there was no—connection between Hillel and J Street.”

House Democrats aid the Justice Department in stonewalling on the New Black Panther Party case: “In their bid to protect President Obama’s liberal political appointees at the Justice Department, congressional Democrats are surrendering their responsibility to keep a presidential administration honest.”

Not so much sycophantic laughter in the White House briefing room: “‘There definitely aren’t a lot of laughs around the briefing room these days,’ says Washington Examiner White House correspondent Julie Mason. ‘Robert’s little digs and evasions have lost their power to amuse — particularly since we haven’t had a presser since July. … Reporters know how close the press secretary is to the president, and yet the quality of the information we get doesn’t often reflect that.” Well, rudeness and lack of candor are pretty much par for the course for the Obami.

Big Labor is steamed it’s gotten nothing for all those millions: “Labor groups are furious with the Democrats they helped put in office — and are threatening to stay home this fall when Democratic incumbents will need their help fending off Republican challengers. … The so-called ‘card check’ bill that would make it easier to unionize employees has gone nowhere. A pro-union Transportation Security Administration nominee quit before he even got a confirmation vote. And even though unions got a sweetheart deal to keep their health plans tax-free under the Senate health care bill, that bill has collapsed, leaving unions exposed again.” And not even Harold Craig Becker could get confirmed.

Obama is bringing people together — Paul Krugman and Bill Kristol agree that his crony-capitalism comments on Wall Street bonuses were horridly tone-deaf. Next thing you know, Jane Hamsher and Yuval Levin will agree on ObamaCare. Oh, wait. It takes real skill to build such a broad-based coalition.

It’s something, but hardly enough: “A day after Iran said it was beginning to feed low enriched uranium through centrifuges at its Natanz pilot facility to create nuclear medical isotopes, the U.S. has announced sanctions on four engineering firms said to be controlled by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).”

Because Nancy Pelosi never met a tax cut she could support, this will be a problem: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is praising the Senate for including a payroll tax credit in its jobs package, but it could set up a battle in his House Democratic caucus. Economic conditions are ripe for a provision that serves as an incentive for employers to expand their workforces, in Hoyer’s vies. The economy is growing again, and surveys indicate growing confidence by business.” Republicans are probably lucky that Pelosi and not Hoyer is Speaker. Hoyer actually sounds in touch with reality.

Cognitive-dissonance alert! David Brooks warms to Rep. Paul Ryan’s vision: “Government would have very few decision-making powers. Instead it would essentially redistribute money so that individuals could better secure their own welfare provision. Medicare and Social Security would essentially be turned into cash programs. The elderly would receive $11,000 a year to purchase insurance. The tax code would be radically simplified.” But Obama doesn’t believe in any of that, so … ?

First, Michael Steele. Now Gov. David Paterson is playing the race card.

It’s about time someone took it to Meghan McCain: “She’s an über-cool politics chick with lots to say of the conventional-thinking NYTimesish variety, and she’s got credulous lefties lapping up her disses of conservatives like kittens at cream bowls.” And what better way to get that attention than to diss the woman who drives liberals mad? Funny how liberal pundits whine that the former governor, who has articulated positions on a range of issues, doesn’t “know anything,” but they’re willing to spend endless hours talking to a 25-year-old who’s, well, never done anything.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus has the goods on the latest J Street scam: “In short, J Street manipulated the Hillel of Greater Philadelphia (of which I am a board member) into leasing to them space in the Hillel building for their J Street Local launch by entering into a firm agreement, and then ignoring that agreement to Hillel’s detriment. J Street’s deception made Hillel’s carefully planned and extensive pre-event efforts to soothe concerned donors, students, and others that there was no—and that it would be made very clear that there was no—connection between Hillel and J Street.”

House Democrats aid the Justice Department in stonewalling on the New Black Panther Party case: “In their bid to protect President Obama’s liberal political appointees at the Justice Department, congressional Democrats are surrendering their responsibility to keep a presidential administration honest.”

Not so much sycophantic laughter in the White House briefing room: “‘There definitely aren’t a lot of laughs around the briefing room these days,’ says Washington Examiner White House correspondent Julie Mason. ‘Robert’s little digs and evasions have lost their power to amuse — particularly since we haven’t had a presser since July. … Reporters know how close the press secretary is to the president, and yet the quality of the information we get doesn’t often reflect that.” Well, rudeness and lack of candor are pretty much par for the course for the Obami.

Big Labor is steamed it’s gotten nothing for all those millions: “Labor groups are furious with the Democrats they helped put in office — and are threatening to stay home this fall when Democratic incumbents will need their help fending off Republican challengers. … The so-called ‘card check’ bill that would make it easier to unionize employees has gone nowhere. A pro-union Transportation Security Administration nominee quit before he even got a confirmation vote. And even though unions got a sweetheart deal to keep their health plans tax-free under the Senate health care bill, that bill has collapsed, leaving unions exposed again.” And not even Harold Craig Becker could get confirmed.

Obama is bringing people together — Paul Krugman and Bill Kristol agree that his crony-capitalism comments on Wall Street bonuses were horridly tone-deaf. Next thing you know, Jane Hamsher and Yuval Levin will agree on ObamaCare. Oh, wait. It takes real skill to build such a broad-based coalition.

It’s something, but hardly enough: “A day after Iran said it was beginning to feed low enriched uranium through centrifuges at its Natanz pilot facility to create nuclear medical isotopes, the U.S. has announced sanctions on four engineering firms said to be controlled by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).”

Because Nancy Pelosi never met a tax cut she could support, this will be a problem: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is praising the Senate for including a payroll tax credit in its jobs package, but it could set up a battle in his House Democratic caucus. Economic conditions are ripe for a provision that serves as an incentive for employers to expand their workforces, in Hoyer’s vies. The economy is growing again, and surveys indicate growing confidence by business.” Republicans are probably lucky that Pelosi and not Hoyer is Speaker. Hoyer actually sounds in touch with reality.

Cognitive-dissonance alert! David Brooks warms to Rep. Paul Ryan’s vision: “Government would have very few decision-making powers. Instead it would essentially redistribute money so that individuals could better secure their own welfare provision. Medicare and Social Security would essentially be turned into cash programs. The elderly would receive $11,000 a year to purchase insurance. The tax code would be radically simplified.” But Obama doesn’t believe in any of that, so … ?

First, Michael Steele. Now Gov. David Paterson is playing the race card.

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The Widening Rift Between Obama and the Left

I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis, Jen, as I almost always do. I’d simply add a prediction into the mix. We will see the split between Obama and the Left continue to widen. This will occur not because Obama’s agenda isn’t liberal; it is, with a few exceptions. No, what will fuel the revolt on the Left is Obama’s sinking political fortunes. Liberals don’t want their cause to go down with him, so they’ll increasingly separate themselves from him, allowing them to say that the reason he failed is that he wasn’t liberal enough. That is the line of argument one is beginning to hear (with varying degrees of incoherence) from Paul Krugman, Jonathan Chait, Frank Rich, E.J. Dionne, and others.

In this fantasy world, Obama is failing because his stimulus package wasn’t expensive enough. Right-oh, and if Obama doesn’t jam through health-care legislation, his will be a broken presidency. Only ObamaCare can salvage it. Agreed, and of course Obama’s other problem is that he was too bipartisan during his first year. He needs to fight harder, to be more aggressive, to get in our faces more frequently, to lecture us more often. Et cetera. Et cetera.

This view of things is utterly detached from reality, of course, and in that sense it probably helps conservatives. It’s always useful when the movement one is competing against is deluded about the nature and depth of its problems.

Watching this split, which is now only in its early phases, is going to be endless interesting.

I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis, Jen, as I almost always do. I’d simply add a prediction into the mix. We will see the split between Obama and the Left continue to widen. This will occur not because Obama’s agenda isn’t liberal; it is, with a few exceptions. No, what will fuel the revolt on the Left is Obama’s sinking political fortunes. Liberals don’t want their cause to go down with him, so they’ll increasingly separate themselves from him, allowing them to say that the reason he failed is that he wasn’t liberal enough. That is the line of argument one is beginning to hear (with varying degrees of incoherence) from Paul Krugman, Jonathan Chait, Frank Rich, E.J. Dionne, and others.

In this fantasy world, Obama is failing because his stimulus package wasn’t expensive enough. Right-oh, and if Obama doesn’t jam through health-care legislation, his will be a broken presidency. Only ObamaCare can salvage it. Agreed, and of course Obama’s other problem is that he was too bipartisan during his first year. He needs to fight harder, to be more aggressive, to get in our faces more frequently, to lecture us more often. Et cetera. Et cetera.

This view of things is utterly detached from reality, of course, and in that sense it probably helps conservatives. It’s always useful when the movement one is competing against is deluded about the nature and depth of its problems.

Watching this split, which is now only in its early phases, is going to be endless interesting.

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He Was for It Before He Was Against It

Paul Krugman’s opinion of the Senate filibuster depends on who might use it. Today he is against it.

America is caught between severe problems that must be addressed and a minority party determined to block action on every front. Doing nothing is not an option …

And last Friday, he was against it:

Beyond that, we need to take on the way the Senate works. The filibuster, and the need for 60 votes to end debate, aren’t in the Constitution. They’re a Senate tradition, and that same tradition said that the threat of filibusters should be used sparingly. Well, Republicans have already trashed the second part of the tradition: look at a list of cloture motions over time, and you’ll see that since the G.O.P. lost control of Congress it has pursued obstructionism on a literally unprecedented scale. So it’s time to revise the rules.

In 2005, however, when the Senate had a Republican majority, Krugman thought that only the filibuster saved us from government by extremists: “But the big step by extremists will be an attempt to eliminate the filibuster, so that the courts can be packed with judges less committed to upholding the law.” (h/t James Taranto)

Krugman’s intellectual inconsistency is at least consistent with that of his employer. On November 28, 2004, with Republicans in the White House and running Congress, the filibuster was a fundamental part of the Founders’ plan, according to the Times:

The Republicans see the filibuster as an annoying obstacle. But it is actually one of the checks and balances that the founders, who worried greatly about concentration of power, built into our system of government. It is also, right now, the main means by which the 48 percent of Americans who voted for John Kerry can influence federal policy. People who call themselves conservatives should find a way of achieving their goals without declaring war on one of the oldest traditions in American democracy.

But on March 1, 2009, with Democrats running everything in Washington, the Times had changed its mind, calling the filibuster a “self-inflicted wound.”

… the use of the filibuster as an everyday tool of legislation stands the idea of democratic government on its head. Instead of majority rule in the Senate, the tyranny of the minority prevails.

The filibuster is merely a Senate rule, not part of the Constitution. But the Founders did conceive of the Senate as “the saucer in which to cool the coffee.” And the filibuster facilitates by giving the minority increased power to affect legislation in ways that it favors, moving the legislation towards the center. What the Times and Krugman were attempting to justify in 2004 and 2005, however, was the use of the filibuster to prevent a vote on judicial nominations. And while legislation can be compromised, nominations cannot. The nominee is either appointed or he is not. So when the minority uses the filibuster to prevent an up-or-down vote on a nominee, it is, indeed, a “tyranny of the minority” and fundamentally undemocratic.

Paul Krugman’s opinion of the Senate filibuster depends on who might use it. Today he is against it.

America is caught between severe problems that must be addressed and a minority party determined to block action on every front. Doing nothing is not an option …

And last Friday, he was against it:

Beyond that, we need to take on the way the Senate works. The filibuster, and the need for 60 votes to end debate, aren’t in the Constitution. They’re a Senate tradition, and that same tradition said that the threat of filibusters should be used sparingly. Well, Republicans have already trashed the second part of the tradition: look at a list of cloture motions over time, and you’ll see that since the G.O.P. lost control of Congress it has pursued obstructionism on a literally unprecedented scale. So it’s time to revise the rules.

In 2005, however, when the Senate had a Republican majority, Krugman thought that only the filibuster saved us from government by extremists: “But the big step by extremists will be an attempt to eliminate the filibuster, so that the courts can be packed with judges less committed to upholding the law.” (h/t James Taranto)

Krugman’s intellectual inconsistency is at least consistent with that of his employer. On November 28, 2004, with Republicans in the White House and running Congress, the filibuster was a fundamental part of the Founders’ plan, according to the Times:

The Republicans see the filibuster as an annoying obstacle. But it is actually one of the checks and balances that the founders, who worried greatly about concentration of power, built into our system of government. It is also, right now, the main means by which the 48 percent of Americans who voted for John Kerry can influence federal policy. People who call themselves conservatives should find a way of achieving their goals without declaring war on one of the oldest traditions in American democracy.

But on March 1, 2009, with Democrats running everything in Washington, the Times had changed its mind, calling the filibuster a “self-inflicted wound.”

… the use of the filibuster as an everyday tool of legislation stands the idea of democratic government on its head. Instead of majority rule in the Senate, the tyranny of the minority prevails.

The filibuster is merely a Senate rule, not part of the Constitution. But the Founders did conceive of the Senate as “the saucer in which to cool the coffee.” And the filibuster facilitates by giving the minority increased power to affect legislation in ways that it favors, moving the legislation towards the center. What the Times and Krugman were attempting to justify in 2004 and 2005, however, was the use of the filibuster to prevent a vote on judicial nominations. And while legislation can be compromised, nominations cannot. The nominee is either appointed or he is not. So when the minority uses the filibuster to prevent an up-or-down vote on a nominee, it is, indeed, a “tyranny of the minority” and fundamentally undemocratic.

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Gray Lady Capsizes — Again

The New York Times is incapable of punishing its “star” columnists, no matter what the offense. Maureen Dowd was caught plagiarizing and was allowed to skate by with a lame excuse and no real confession of guilt. Paul Krugman in a column last week wrote, “By all means, hang Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy.” Today, in a pathetic parenthetical, he writes: (“Management wants me to make it clear that in my last column I wasn’t endorsing inappropriate threats against Mr. Lieberman.”) A more insincere apology would be hard to find.

Let’s imagine — for we will have to, barring a spasm of transparency from public editor Clark Hoyt — that the Times management received one or more complaints about Krugman’s disgusting remark. What would they have said? “Well, no, we don’t actually support hanging in effigy U.S. senators.” If pressed as to their editorial judgment, would they have lamely acknowledged, “Er, yes, had anyone used that phrase with the regard to the president, we would have caught it and squelched it”? The mind reels.

What is clear is that for all the Times’s snooty condescension about the blogosphere, the editorial pages of the Gray Lady are no better than the average netroot blog. Journalistic ethics? Puh-leez! Common decency? Fuggedaboutit!

The New York Times is incapable of punishing its “star” columnists, no matter what the offense. Maureen Dowd was caught plagiarizing and was allowed to skate by with a lame excuse and no real confession of guilt. Paul Krugman in a column last week wrote, “By all means, hang Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy.” Today, in a pathetic parenthetical, he writes: (“Management wants me to make it clear that in my last column I wasn’t endorsing inappropriate threats against Mr. Lieberman.”) A more insincere apology would be hard to find.

Let’s imagine — for we will have to, barring a spasm of transparency from public editor Clark Hoyt — that the Times management received one or more complaints about Krugman’s disgusting remark. What would they have said? “Well, no, we don’t actually support hanging in effigy U.S. senators.” If pressed as to their editorial judgment, would they have lamely acknowledged, “Er, yes, had anyone used that phrase with the regard to the president, we would have caught it and squelched it”? The mind reels.

What is clear is that for all the Times’s snooty condescension about the blogosphere, the editorial pages of the Gray Lady are no better than the average netroot blog. Journalistic ethics? Puh-leez! Common decency? Fuggedaboutit!

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