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Showing posts from May, 2012

The debate over the Bush tax cuts is over. The tax cuts won.

Today's New York Times: It is a maxim in Congress these days: If high-profile legislation affecting millions of Americans is about to expire, deal with it at the last possible second, preferably with rancor.  But a major exception is in the offing with the Bush-era tax cuts, which are set to lapse on Jan 1. Both parties in the House and the Senate are eager, perhaps even giddy, at the prospect of voting for their respective versions of an extension of the cuts this summer, well before the due date. Now, the piece goes on to say that the Democratic package would drop the cuts for high earners and keep them for the middle class. But with a divided Congress and this president in charge, does anybody expect the Democratic preference will become law? Anybody?


Right. We've already seen this movie before. So maybe it's time to end the debate, make the tax rates permanent rather than dickering with them every two years, and start planning for a budget within those reven…

Michael Barone's cocoon: Just for liberals?

Michael Barone says that liberals only listen to liberal arguments, but conservatives have a more varied diet of ideas because they're forced to be exposed to liberal media culture. The result is that liberals only know how to preach to the choir. Liberals can protect themselves better against assaults from outside their cocoon. They can stay out of megachurches and make sure their remote controls never click on Fox News. They can stay off the AM radio dial so they will never hear Rush Limbaugh.  The problem is that this leaves them unprepared to make the best case for their side in public debate. They are too often not aware of holes in arguments that sound plausible when bandied between confreres entirely disposed to agree. I'm not sure that liberals are uniquely vulnerable to the malady of ideological isolation. Conor Friedersdorf notes the topics that dominate conservative media these days:
In addition to taxes and spending, the rank and file currently spends a lot of tim…

Politics makes hypocrites of us all

In this week's Scripps column, I argue that Mitt Romney's religious beliefs have some bearing on the presidential campaign—and Ben argues that the issues are more important. Four years ago, we staked out almost precisely the opposite territory:

Ben then:
Yet Obama still insists that what he heard from Wright this week was unlike anything he heard over the past two decades. That simply defies belief. Obama chose Wright. His choice was unwise. His choice should tell voters something important about Obama that his position papers on the Iraq war and health care cannot. Me then:
But the job of the next president will not be to pick a national clergyman. Instead, the president will have to decide what to do about Iraq, health care and the economy, among other issues. Barack Obama has an argument to make that he'll end the war, extend care to more Americans and save a few of their homes from foreclosure. Given the mood of Americans these days, that could well be a winning argumen…

Does Mitt Romney's Mormonism matter?

That's the the topic of my column with Ben Boychuk for Scripps Howard this week. I answer in the kind-of-affirmative:
Let's give thanks for progress: A black man and a Mormon will compete for the presidency this November. More people from more backgrounds than ever can fully participate in our politics -- thanks largely to the efforts of American liberals.  Romney doesn't get a free pass for his faith, however.  Don't misunderstand: If you vote for a candidate based on the Nicene Creed, say, then you're being silly and maybe a little un-American. We're electing a president, not a pope.  But a candidate's policies are fair game, as is the worldview that shapes those policies. Faith often shapes a candidate's worldview. Romney's opposition to abortion reportedly springs from the teachings of his church: That's a topic that can't and shouldn't be avoided in a presidential campaign.  Other issues in which Romney's faith may be a f…

What's wrong with private equity? Debt. What Mitt Romney and Sam Zell have in common.

A lot of the debate over Mitt Romney's time at Bain Capital has been focused on how many jobs he did or didn't create, did or didn't destroy. That's understandable, given that we're in a time of sustained high unemployment, but I'm not sure that tallying lost jobs really gets to the heart of what might be objectionable about Romney's business practices.

The problem is debt.

In the case of the shuttered Kansas City steel mill at the center of the debate, the chain of events is pretty clear:
• Bain Capital bought the steel mill in October 1993, putting up just $8 million of its own money to gain majority control—even though the total purchase price was $75 million.  • The next year, Bain had the company issue $125 million in bonds—debt used to pay Bain itself a dividend of $36 million in 1994. Understand again: Bain made a quick profit on its investment, but it wasn't by helping the steel mill earn greater profits—but by having the mill take on a chunk of…

Say, whatever happened to Strom Thurmond anyway?

Jonathan Chait has a pretty excellent takedown of Kevin Williamson's "the Republican Party has always been the party of civil rights" piece at National Review. Two points I'd like to add:
• Chait doesn't frame it in quite these terms, but Williamson's piece is heavily dependent on him ignoring the history of his own magazine and its founder, William F. Buckley, who opposed civil rights legislation on frankly white supremacist grounds:
The central question that emerges—and it is not a parliamentary question or a question that is answered by merely consulting a catalog of the rights of American citizens, born Equal—is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes—the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race. …  National Review believes that the South…

Dennis Prager, Big Business, and Big Government

At National Review today, Dennis Prager says that the left is dangerous because it craves power instead of money—and power in the service of Big Government leads to the Holocaust, Mao, and Stalin. Sure, some big corporations may not always "play by the rules," but they don't have the power to send you to a concentration camp.

Key graph:
There is yet another reason to fear big government far more than big corporations. ExxonMobil has no police force, no IRS, no ability to arrest you, no ability to shut you up, and certainly no ability to kill you. ExxonMobil can’t knock on your door in the middle of the night and legally take you away. Apple Computer cannot take your money away without your consent, and it runs no prisons. The government does all of these things. Prager's diagnosis, of course, misses the concern that most liberals have about Big Business—which is that money and power are not separate things: Money purchases power, which can give (oh hell, let's us…

Is it 'bigoted' to oppose gay marriage?

Ben and I debate gay marriage in this week's column for Scripps. Rather than give you my take in this space, I want to offer Ben's—because I find it somewhat troubling:
At a certain point -- long before the president concluded that the political benefits of supporting gay marriage this election cycle outweighed the disadvantages -- millions of Americans concluded that it's important affirm that marriage is exclusively a union between one man and one woman.  Those people are called bigots, and worse.  Be wary of those national polls showing a majority now supporting a redefinition of marriage. People who don't like being called bigots might just lie to pollsters. Pre-election polls in North Carolina predicted the vote on that state's constitutional amendment would be closer than the 20-point blowout it turned out to be.  For the partisans of gay marriage, North Carolina's vote was an expression of bigotry and hatred, plain and simple. No other explanation could …

About the Philadelphia Inquirer's augmented reality app

I missed the debut of the Philadelphia Inquirer's "augmented reality" app over the weekend—you point your mobile device at the newspaper, and the device starts playing a video linked to that particular story in the newspaper—but the Daily News' Janathan Takiff says it's getting an "undeservedly bad rap." But it sure doesn't sound like it. Listen to Takiff's explanation:
The naysayers clearly didn't read the instructions (spelled out in the Inky yesterday but not in the app) about how the Aurasma AR technology works in practice. This ain't rocket science. Once you've installed the free Inquirer AR app on your camera-equipped iPhone or iPad, you look for a photo or advertisement in the paper that has a little gothic "I" symbol in the corner. You then point your Apple device's camera lens at the same image. A few seconds later a companion video starts playing on the Apple screen and speakers. Here comes the HARD part…

Obama: It could be worse

I was at a neighborhood festival over the weekend when a Democratic activist approached and asked if he could count on my vote for President Obama this November. "Well," I said, "I haven't been too thrilled with him on the civil liberties front." "Nobody's perfect," the man shot back. "The other guys would be worse." In today's Boston Globe, John McCain steps forward with a reminder that my activist friend was probably right: “How is it that Assad is still in power?” Wiesel said. “How is it that the Holocaust’s number one denier, [Iran’s Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, is still a president? He who threatens to use nuclear weapons to destroy the Jewish state. Have we not learned? We must. We must know that when evil has power, it is almost too late.” Under John McCain, then, the United States would definitely be going abroad in search of monsters to destroy. Don't get me wrong: As The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf pointed out last …