Brad DeLong explains in a great posts that tours us from the contrasting course of the University of California and the Ivy League by way of a detour into the economics of working-owned firms in Communist Yugoslavia. Long story short if you, like me, are a graduate of a fancy college and the development people come around asking you for money don’t do it save your money for institutions that (a) have less money and (b) do more to help people in need.
During a discussion of the possible presidential general election match-up between Sens. Barack Obama (D-IL) and John McCain (R-AZ) on Meet the Press this morning, John Harwood — CNBC correspondent and New York Times political writer — said that the McCain campaign is already “trying to work the referees in advance” to argue that Obama gets more favorable media coverage than McCain.
But Harwood noted that some would find McCain’s strategy “ironic” because the press — whom according to Harwood were McCain’s “base” in 2000 — have been “very friendly” to McCain over the years:
HARWOOD: Now John McCain has benefited from very friendly press coverage for many years, but he’s going to try to argue, which will have a corollary benefit of rally conservatives if he can pull it off, of saying the press wants Obama to win. I’m pushing back…
RUSSERT: In 2000, John McCain referred to the press as his base.
HARWOOD: They were his base.
Indeed, the press have been “very friendly” to McCain, who has even reciprocated with kind gestures of his own. After hosting a barbecue last March for reporters covering his campaign, one attendee from the AP wrote an article shortly thereafter calling McCain a “man of the people” for taking a high-speed train despite noting he rode first class.
On television, of course, it’s difficult to make a nuanced point but it occurred to me when discussing the whole “should Hillary drop out” issue that a decision to end her campaign needn’t deprive the Ellen Malcolms of the world their chance to register a vote for the first viable woman presidential candidate. If she announced that she was done campaigning on Monday, she’d still be on the ballot in West Virginia on Tuesday — and in Kentucky a week later — and she’d still probably win both states.
Folks are still out there voting for Mike Huckabee, after all. The difference is just that Huckabee isn’t actively campaigning for their votes. He’s endorsed John McCain and receded a lot from public view. And conversely, receding a bit and starting to transition to playing a constructive non-presidential role in Democratic politics is available to Clinton even if she doesn’t drop out. What the party needs from her, fundamentally, is for her to avoid spending the time between this weekend and Puerto Rico launching a constant barrage of attacks on Obama. That’s consistent with dropping out or with staying in the race, and dropping out is consistent with her most loyal voters still voting for her anyway. The specific modalities aren’t very important, it’s about shifting the national discussion to the problems with McCain.
The AP reports that despite a decline in total veterans “as soldiers from World War II and Korea die,” the government “expects to be spending $59 billion a year to compensate injured warriors in 25 years, up from today’s $29 billion,” according to internal documents. The VA “concedes the bill could be much higher” as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars go on:
Inflation accounts for a big chunk of the increase. But even when the VA factors out inflation, the compensation for disabled veterans would still grow from $29 billion to $33 billion in today’s dollars — a more than 10 percent increase. And the department acknowledges the estimate could rise by 30 percent.
Earlier this year, Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz predicted that a “lifetime health-care and counseling for veterans” from Iraq and Afghanistan could in part push the total cost of the wars to $5 trillion to $7 trillion, far higher than current expectations.
John McCain fires two aides (theoretically they quit) over their background as lobbyists for the military junta that rules Burma.
Mike D’Antoni to the Knicks — just when you thought the Dolans couldn’t devise any new, extremely costly quick-fix solutions to their franchise’s problems. Chad Ford calls is “an improbable home run that could immediately turn the fortunes of a franchise in desperate need of optimism” and says “D’Antoni will bring a pedigree of exciting, winning basketball that should inject new life into a tired Knicks franchise.” Why, yes, this is exactly the thing to turn around a franchise that hasn’t seen a marquee coach since, well, Larry Brown just a little while back.
Seriously, at this point isn’t it obvious that it’s the search for improbable home runs that’s the problem here? When your roster doesn’t contain good players, you can’t win. And when the roster contains lots of players on bad contracts, it’s hard to trade for better ones. The only solution is to admit that this is the kind of problem that it would take several seasons to solve and to stop trying to create an atmosphere of optimism.
William Galston and Pietro Nivola have an interesting piece on the rise of geographic segregation in political presences, where more-and-more people now live in whole counties full of co-partisans. It ends, however, with a pretty lame entry into the literature of bellyaching about polarization:
Because politics is a contact sport, hard-hitting partisan competition is unavoidably part of the game. A party system that differentiates sharply between alternatives has virtues, not the least being that it engages more voters, offers clearer choices and enhances accountability. But hyperpartisan politics also do damage, not least to public trust and confidence in government — and many Americans understandably yearn for less polarization. Because the underlying structure of our politics remains so deeply divided, the 2008 election may not requite their wish.
These upsides are what I wrote about in my “case for partisanship” article and stacking the upsides against the Galston/Nivola downsides, I think polarization looks pretty good. On the one hand, we have more engaged voters, clearer choices, and more accountability. All of those are good things. The downside is allegedly “public trust and confidence in government.” But it’s not even clear that that’s a bad thing. I don’t trust the government as much as I did before I learned that it was running a network of secret prisons in Eastern Europe and organizing an illegal surveillance program, but I’d say that’s a merited decline in trust.
Why would we pine away for a shift that would make government less accountable but more trusted?
On CNN’s Late Edition today, former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) claimed that the argument that John McCain would, in effect, be a third Bush term “isn’t going to stick”:
BLITZER: [Obama] says he welcomes a debate with John McCain on the issue of the economy, taxes, spending policy because John McCain would simply be more George W. Bush. … Does John McCain want to continue what Obama called the failed policies of the Bush administration?
ROMNEY: Well I think you’re going to hear that time and again, Wolf, throughout the campaign season. And I just don’t think it’s going to stick.
But earlier on the same program, a leading McCain surrogate — Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) — conceded that McCain is indeed promising a third Bush term on the economy:
BLITZER: So it would be in effect a third Bush term when it came to pro-growth tax policies?
BLUNT: It would be. I think it would be. And I think that’s a good thing.
Watch a compilation:
Romney may not have gotten the memo, but it’s nice to see Blunt conceding the point. McCain is promising more of Bush’s economic agenda — unaffordable massive tax cuts for the rich that offer no help for the average family.
The McCain economic agenda includes: $1.7 trillion tax cut for corporations, $300 billion a year in tax cuts that aren’t paid for, and a plan that delivers 58 percent of the benefits to the top 1 percent of taxpayers and only 9 percent to the bottom 80 percent.
All this coming from a man who once said he “cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us.”
On ABC’s This Week, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said, “I think the main thing [McCain's] wrong on the issues of America today. He’s wrong on the war. He’s wrong on the economy. He’s a clone of George Bush.”
I went to Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza yesterday for lunch (it’s on the southeast corner of 14th and Irving) and had a pretty decent white clam slice. I’ve had better, but for by-the-slice pizza it’s quite good. I think the “Yalie” at Comet Ping Pong is a better entrant in the DC clam genre, but that’s not a very convenient location.
Speaking with PBS’s Bill Moyers on Friday, Sands noted that these architects of torture refuse to acknowledge they were “complicit in the commission of a crime.” “There was not a hint of recognition that anything had gone wrong, nor a hint of recognition of individual responsibility,” he said of his interviews with key torture advocates.
Sands cited former Pentagon official Doug Feith, who was instrumental in shredding the Geneva Conventions, as an example:
When you read my account with Doug Feith and with others, you will see the sort of weaseling out of individual responsibility, the total and abject failure to accept involvement. Read Mr. Feith’s book. on how to fight the so-called war on terror. And it’s as though the man had no involvement in the decisions relating to interrogation of detainees. And yet, as I describe in the book, the man was deeply involved in the decision making from step one. So it’s about individual responsibility. And there’s been an abject failure on that account.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recently argued that torture is not unconstitutional. Speaking with Moyers, Sands slammed Scalia for being “foolish” and not considering the implications of his words:
I’ve listened, for example, to Justice Antonin Scalia saying, if the president wants to authorize torture, there’s nothing in our constitution which stops it. Now, pause for a moment. That is such a foolish thing to say. If the United States president can do that, then why can’t the Iranian president do that, or the British prime minister do that, or the Egyptian president do that?
“You open the door in that way, to all sorts of abuses, and you expose the American military to real dangers,” Sands concluded.