January 29, 2010

Signs of Intelligent Life?

Obama Said to Seek $54 Billion in Nuclear-Power Loans
President Barack Obama, acting on a pledge to support nuclear power, will propose tripling U.S. loan guarantees for new reactors to more than $54 billion, an administration official said.

I'll believe it when I see it. But it would be a start.

January 25, 2010

LESS

Lamar Alexander has an intelligent take on the problems of biting off more than you can chew:

Step by Step
Incremental improvements are better than comprehensive reforms

The Democrats’ comprehensive immigration, climate-change, and health-care bills have been well-intended, but the first two collapsed under their own weight, and health care, if it doesn’t do the same, will be a historic mistake for the country and a political kamikaze mission for Democrats.

What has united most Republicans against these three bills has been not only ideology, but also that they were comprehensive. As George Will might write: The. Congress. Does. Not. Do. Comprehensive. Well.

That's not a surprise, as almost no one does comprehensive well. Lamar traces the over-reach urge to the fact that "... the president and most of his advisers have been trained at elite universities to govern by launching “a host of enormous initiatives all at once . . . formulating comprehensive policies aimed at giving large social systems — and indeed society itself — more rational and coherent forms and functions."

In other words, they're so self-assuredly brilliant that they already have all the answers, if only they can just dictate the forms and shapes of society itself! The problem there being, of course, that such thinking totally ignores two things: That citizens in a free nation resist such social engineering even when done "for their own good," and that the bigger the changes, the more subject they are to the Law of Unintended Consequences.

As Alexander elucidates, the incremental approach is not only less likely to produce catastrophic unintended consequences, but is more amenable to being reversed if found destructive. Comprehensive "reforms" tend to be very difficult to reverse, even when they go spectacularly wrong.

There is much more to fear in the hubris of the self-proclaimed elites than there is in the intentionally-hobbled structure of our system, and collectively we seem to grasp that. Maybe the backlash to the most recent attempts to absorb our fortunes, liberties, and even our lives into the statist visions of those elites will give them pause. It should, and not just on the Democratic side of the aisle. The Tea Party movement, that the GOP would so dearly love to harness exclusively for themselves, is not one that will fit well into the social agendas of the religious right. It is instead a populist outcry that can be summed up in one word: LESS. Not just less spending and less taxes, but less interference in our lives in ALL areas.

LESS is the new Big Tent, and pols should pay heed.

Ross Douthat has some related thoughts in today's New York Times.

January 24, 2010

Excuse me?

Obama endorses deficit commission plan
Trying to win the votes of fiscal moderates, President Barack Obama formally endorsed legislation Saturday creating an independent commission with the power to force Congress to vote on major deficit reduction steps this year, after the November elections.

Excuse me? Can anyone point me to that section of the Constitution that permits Presidents to issue executive orders to force Congress to do anything? I can understand why some Congresscritters might be in favor of abdicating to such a dictatorial politburo -- they don't want to do THEIR JOBS. But that doesn't make it legal.

January 22, 2010

DUH! Also, water is wet....

Given the apparently unlimited reality-denial capacity of wingers on both ends of the political spectrum, it's refreshing to see some common sense in the political blogosphere. (Not that Megan McArdle is a winger!) I've been pointing this out for years, and getting the predictable responses from True Believers.

Taking the Ball and Going Home
Here's the thing that Democrats just learned in Massachusetts: the base can't save you. In the bluest of blue states, if you run with a progressive agenda and alienate moderates, those alienated moderates will join with the conservatives to kick you out of office. Catering to the base is a losing strategy.

...You might also consider that the voters you're asking them to ignore are their constituents. You know, the majority of the people in their district. The people they ostensibly represent. The people who consistently poll against the various health care plans on the table.

Megan gets it. Pols are supposed to be working on behalf of ALL their constituents, not just the national party base. Those who forget that little detail show a much-enhanced tendency to become ex-pols.

In some safe districts pols have a lot more leeway, but as the Massachussets election shows, it's not unlimited. And in swing districts the candidate who best reflects the majority views of the overall electorate tend to kick ass on wingers who ignore same. This is how Scott Brown reached the Senate, and how Mitt Romney and Kathleen Sebelius became governors.

January 20, 2010

Ass-Backwards!

It's really tough to get more DENSE than this. Obama today in an exclusive interview with ABC's George Stephanopolous (EMPHASIS mine):
"If there's one thing that I regret this year is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly TO the American people about what THEIR core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values," Obama told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview at the White House.

That's right. He's oh-so-humbly willing to take the blame, and proclaim that it's all his fault for failing to tell us what our values are! How can we vote properly without pols telling us what our values are?

January 14, 2010

The Numbers Racket

An excellent short piece from Michael J. Boskin in WSJ:
Don't Like the Numbers? Change 'Em
Politicians and scientists who don't like what their data show lately have simply taken to changing the numbers. They believe that their end—socialism, global climate regulation, health-care legislation, repudiating debt commitments, la gloire fran├žaise—justifies throwing out even minimum standards of accuracy. It appears that no numbers are immune: not GDP, not inflation, not budget, not job or cost estimates, and certainly not temperature. A CEO or CFO issuing such massaged numbers would land in jail.

...Even more blatant is the numbers game being used to justify health-insurance reform legislation, which claims to greatly expand coverage, decrease health-insurance costs, and reduce the deficit. That magic flows easily from counting 10 years of dubious Medicare "savings" and tax hikes, but only six years of spending; assuming large cuts in doctor reimbursements that later will be cancelled; and making the states (other than Sen. Ben Nelson's Nebraska) pay a big share of the cost by expanding Medicaid eligibility. The Medicare "savings" and payroll tax hikes are counted twice—first to help pay for expanded coverage, and then to claim to extend the life of Medicare.

Seriously, read the whole thing. Great brief on why those of us who trained in empirical economics don't believe a damn thing we hear coming from the mouths of pols and activists until we've reviewed the base assumptions and modeling construction. Because so much of it is complete bullshit.

January 12, 2010

HopenChange Cracks

Kim R. Holmes has some on-target Reality Check going on here:
When he promises an America in which “no one will die because they don’t have health care” or no one is poor, he is invoking an image of a world that simply cannot exist. But this matters little because in the world of imagination, anything is possible, and truth and reality spoil the mood.

...But “real” idealists are not utopians.

All good people hope the world will be and can be made a better place in which to live. But not all people believe it is possible for the U.S. government to guarantee that no one will die because they don’t have health care, or that every rogue nuclear state will give up its weapons, or that poverty can be eliminated by government fiat. The difference in these two propositions is more than that between the idealist and the realist.

It is rather between imagination and the truth.

Go over there and read the whole thing.

January 08, 2010

REALLY ouch!

Stewart Rips Obama's Broken Promises, Especially C-SPAN
STEWART: Oh, yeah we're going TO DO IT ON MOTHERF**KING C-SPAN. I got my 3-d glasses. I got my snacks. By the way, I always buy my popcorn at the movie theater and sneak it home because it tastes so much better when it's ridiculously expensive. Alright, let's turn on the C-SPAN and watch some healthcare negotiations. Alright, it's not on C-SPAN 1 there. Or, let's try again. Okay it's not on C-SPAN 2. Maybe it's on C-SPAN Classic. [...]

STEWART: Well, I've checked all the C-SPANs, even the ones I made up. What gives? [...]

I'm thinking the honeymoon is over.

That Time of Year

January 07, 2010

OUCH!

That's gotta sting. Especially considering the source.

The New Marriage Penalty

I had meant to write about this this week, but the Wall Street Journal beat me to it.

Married Couples Pay More Than Unmarried Under Health Bill
The built-in "marriage penalty" in both House and Senate healthcare bills has received scant attention. But for scores of low-income and middle-income couples, it could mean a hike of $2,000 or more in annual insurance premiums the moment they say "I do."

It's not just the premiums, it's the subsidies, and it gets even worse when you factor children into it. There would be a multi-thousand-dollar annual incentive for two-earner couples with kids to get divorced and live together, with the lower-earning spouse having custody.

Why do all Democratic proposals to raise taxes "for our own good" seem to penalize marriage and productivity, and boost incentives to be poor?

January 05, 2010

PANTS. ON. FIRE.

Democratic Leaders Plan Secret Health Reform Deliberations

Compare with:





No comment necessary.

Not comment really, just update:

Pelosi tells C-SPAN: 'There has never been a more open process'
C-SPAN wrote a letter to congressional leaders Tuesday asking that TV cameras be allowed to film negotiations to reconcile the House and Senate versions of healthcare reform legislation.

But Pelosi said Congress has already been transparent throughout the process.

"There has never been a more open process for any legislation," Pelosi said at a press conference.

You can't make this stuff up. More update: BREITBART-TV has compiled EIGHT separate clips of Obama promising that ALL the health care negotiations would be carried on C-SPAN.

More, from the CEO of C-SPAN:

C-SPAN CEO: White House Has Allowed Only ‘One Hour’ of Health Care Coverage
"...which was kind of a show-horse type of thing."

I like to think of them as ponies promised...that never get delivered.