Would it have been so hard for conservative to wait until tonight when we have an actual CBO analysis of the stimulus plan to work with? With the whole thing done, it seems that two thirds of the funds will flow within 18 months of enacting the plan. Of course it’s true that 100 percent would be better. And even truer that if we had passed a stimulus plan back last September rather than experiencing months of delay thanks to conservative intransigence this problem wouldn’t be so severe.
Rick Hertzberg writes about the irony of listening to “My Generation” now that Pete Townsend’s in his sixties rather than hoping he dies before he gets old. For my part, I first heard the song in the form of a Green Day cover on their seminal album Kerplunk:
It struck me, in eighth grade, as an incredibly awesome anthem of generational angst and change. It was only later that I learned the irony—it was appropriated from an earlier generation. To this day, I’m still not sure exactly what to make of that, but ultimately I think it speaks to the enduring power of the song—it captures sentiments that remained vital long after they had ceased to really make sense in the mouth of the original singer.
As ThinkProgress reported earlier today, the right wing has been aggressively launching inaccurate attacks against the House stimulus bill, claiming that progressives want to waste “hundreds of millions on contraceptives.” In reality, the provision would save the country money by increasing access to family planning services for low-income women. However, the AP is now reporting that Obama officials are considering dropping the provision:
House Democrats appear likely to jettison family planning funds for the low-income from an $825 billion economic stimulus bill, officials said late Monday, following an appeal from President Barack Obama at a time the administration is courting Republican critics of the legislation.
The stimulus bill also contains a sizable number of tax cuts aimed at businesses that are meant to court reluctant conservatives into supporting the bill.
Last Tuesday, the AP reported on a leaked Congressional Budget Office (CBO) “analysis” that had concluded that “it will take years before an infrastructure spending program proposed” by President Barack Obama “will boost the economy.” Conservatives, such as House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), quickly pounced on the story, claiming the CBO had proved that “government spending isn’t going to get our economy back on track.”
After the AP first wrote up the “report,” the rest of the media piled on the story. In a new analysis, ThinkProgress has found that since the AP’s report last Tuesday, the CBO report has been cited at least 81 times on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, the Sunday shows and the network newscasts in order raise questions about Obama’s recovery plan. Here are a few examples:
– “There’s a Congressional Budget Office report out today that suggests that the $825 billion stimulus proposal from Democrats, which is supposed to be timely and temporary, actually offers most of its spending a couple years from now,” — Carl Cameron [Fox News, 1/20/09]
– “Even the Congressional Budget Office is very skeptical about the rapidity with which that stimulus, this set of proposals, can move through, and that it could be four years before we see the results,” — Andrea Mitchell [MSNBC, 1/21/09]
– “Well that was another question raised in this Congressional Budget Office study. It was suggesting that a lot of the spending proposals in the original plan would not really take effect for a couple of years, so it wouldn’t clearly help create jobs in the first two years of the president’s administration,” — Ed Henry [CNN, 1/23/09]
– “There was a report out earlier this week from [the] Congressional Budget Office pointing out that the appropriated funds, that portion of the stimulus package that, you know, less than half of that was really going to be spent even within the next two years,” — Karen Tumulty [CNN, 1/24/09]
As the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim and the American Prospect’s Tim Fernholz reported last Friday, the CBO report being touted by conservatives and the media isn’t an actual report. “We did not issue any report, any analysis or any study,” a CBO aide told the Huffington Post.
Instead, the CBO “ran a small portion of an earlier version of the stimulus plan through a computer program that uses a standard formula” to determine how quickly money will be spent. As Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Scott Lily notes, even that CBO analysis is based “almost entirely on a review of historical data on program performance,” which likely applies “less during an economic crisis like the one we currently face.” OMB Director Peter Orszag says that 75 percent of the stimulus plan “will be spent over the next year and a half.”
The CBO is working on a full analysis of the plan to be released shortly.
,In a blog post, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf notes that the full report is “the first cost estimate that CBO has prepared” for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act “in its entirety.”
NOAA stunner: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe
Important new research led by NOAA scientists, “Irreversible climate change because of carbon dioxide emissions,” finds:
…the climate change that is taking place because of increases in carbon dioxide concentration is largely irreversible for 1,000 years after emissions stop…. Among illustrative irreversible impacts that should be expected if atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations increase from current levels near 385 parts per million by volume (ppmv) to a peak of 450-600 ppmv over the coming century are irreversible dry-season rainfall reductions in several regions comparable to those of the ”dust bowl” era and inexorable sea level rise.
I guess this is what President Obama meant when he warned today of “irreversible catastrophe” from climate change. The NOAA press release is here. An excellent video interview of the lead author is here.
The Proceedings of the National Academies of Science paper gives the lie to the notion that it is a moral choice not to do everything humanly possible to prevent this tragedy, a lie to the notion that we can “adapt” to climate change, unless by “adapt” you mean “force the next 50 generations to endure endless misery because we were too damn greedy to give up 0.1% of our GDP each year” (see, for instance, McKinsey: Stabilizing at 450 ppm has a net cost near zero or the 2007 IPCC report).
The most important finding concerns the irreversible precipitation changes we will be forcing on the next 50 generations in the U.S. Southwest, Southeast Asia, Eastern South America, Western Australia, Southern Europe, Southern Africa, and northern Africa (see also US Geological Survey stunner: SW faces “permanent drying” by 2050 and links below)
Here is the key figure (click to enlarge)
Figure: Best estimate of expected irreversible dry-season precipitation changes, as a function of the peak carbon dioxide concentration during the 21st century. The quasi-equilibrium CO2 concentrations shown correspond to 40% remaining in the long term as discussed in the text. The yellow box indicates the range of precipitation change observed during typical major regional droughts such as the ”dust bowl” in North America [except, of course, this Dust Bowl lasts 1000 years, not 10 to 20, which is what some people might call a desert (see Australia faces the "permanent dry" -- as do we)].
On our current emissions path, we are headed toward 1000 ppm by century’s end, as a close reading of the IPCC report makes clear (see my 2008 recent Nature online article). That would put essentially every at risk region into conditions worse than the Dust Bowl for a long, long, long time. Clearly we must peak no higher than 450 ppm.
Furthering its insistence that corporations will be the saviors of the economy, the Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to members of the Senate Finance Committee today approving of the business tax cuts in the Senate’s proposed economic stimulus package, but urging that more be added.
As McClatchy reported, the Senate included provisions “desperately sought by corporate America” that are not in the House’s version of the bill. However, the Chamber suggested “other provisions” — like “reduc[ing] the corporate capital gains rate to 15%” — to further transform the legislation into a corporate tax cut goodie bag.
Useful provisions — like investments in mass transit — have already been booted from the stimulus to make space for ineffective, industry driven tax breaks. With its letter, the Chamber is only encouraging these poor decisions.
In their latest attempt to rally against the new economic stimulus package, many conservatives are ridiculing a measure that would aid states by making it easier to provide comprehensive family planning services to low-income women. Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) defended the measure on MSNBC’s Hardball this afternoon, noting that “family planning saves, if done correctly, an enormous sum of money down the road in the health care system.” However, host Chris Matthews thought the measure sounded more like something straight out of communist China:
MATTHEWS: I don’t know. It sounds a little like China. [...] I think everybody should have family planning and everybody believes in birth control as a right. I’m for — abortion is a right and all that. It’s all right. But why should the federal government have a policy of reducing the number of births?
What Matthews appears to be referring to is China’s “one-child policy,” a law that prohibits most couples from bearing more than one child. But of course, the House’s stimulus provision does no such thing. Instead, like Wexler noted, it provides funds to help states and low-income working women reduce their health care costs.
On CNN today, Jack Cafferty claimed that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was “starting to sound a little like Chairman Mao” because she defended the spending on family planning.
Last week, former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen penned a vitriolic op-ed in the Washington Post, arguing that if there is another terror attack, “Americans will hold Obama responsible.” Greg Sargent noted that on the same day, Thiessen called President Obama “the most dangerous man ever to occupy the Oval Office.”
Today, in an interview on WAMU’s Diane Rehm Show, Thiessen again lashed out at Obama, this time for Obama’s executive order closing Guantanamo. “I think this is the most dangerous decision that any president has made within 48 hours of his inauguration,” he said, saying that torture is “singularly responsible” for stopping attacks on the U.S. Thiessen listed a long chain of events that were all allegedly sourced to the torture of Abu Zubaydah:
THIESSEN: The CIA developed these alternative interrogation techniques, and all of a sudden he started talking. Zubaydah’s information led us to Ramsey bin al Shibh, who was was one of the 9/11 hijackers. Together, they gave us the information that led the capture of KSM. Then, KSM gave us information about another al Qaeda operative, Majid Khan, who was in CIA custody. He told us that Majid Khan had been tasked to give $50,000 to an operative named Zubair, who was developing plots with a Southeast Asian group called JI.
Later, Thiessen bristled in response to a conversation about investigating Bush administration officials for torture. Bush’s torturers, he said, are really “American heroes”:
THIESSEN: They’re not torturers. They’re heroes. … And the thought that we’re sitting here discussing whether these people should be prosecuted or investigated is just outrageous. These people are American heroes who saved lives and stopped the next Sept. 11.
Zubaydah’s torture is a textbook example of why coercive interrogations do not work. Zubaydah was reportedly driven mentally insane from his torture, and Canadians tossed out evidence from the CIA’s interrogations of Zubaydah. In fact, from Zubaydah’s interrogations, the U.S. gleaned false information about links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
In calling Bush’s torturers “heroes,” Thiessen is echoing Bill Kristol, who suggested in November that the “CIA agents who waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammad” receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Kevin Drum writes about the question of Bill Kristol’s replacement: “It shouldn’t be a ‘liberal’s conservative,’ it should be a genuine, dedicated, smart, reality-grounded, conservative’s conservative — someone who will drive liberals crazy. Who best fits that bill?”
Honestly, one thing that drives me crazy is the idea that “x drives liberals crazy” is a form of praise for a conservative writer. If that’s what you’re looking for, you really can’t do better than Mickey Kaus. He’s not a genuine conservative, and he’s not that dedicated or reality-grounded but he is smart and precisely because he’s neither genuinely conservative nor dedicated he has both the skills and inclination to spend a lot of time pressing liberals’ buttons. But the goal in finding a conservative writer should be to find a writer who’s not a liberal but who liberals enjoy reading. That doesn’t need to be columns that make liberals feel good about themselves (e.g., conservatives writing about how brain-dead the GOP is, etc.) but it needs to be columns that liberals find not maddening but challenging. When I read Tyler Cowen’s skeptical notes on the stimulus, for example, I don’t become infuriated, I become better-informed about the issue. At his best, this is what David Brooks contributes on that page—he’s raised issues about public choice and so forth that liberals tend to neglect but that are genuinely important.
That’s the standard you should be reaching for, though, people who can take on strong liberal arguments and raise strong doubts about them. Not someone who “drives liberals crazy.” But that’s not just a matter of finding “someone” who can do it, but of trying to frame the job in such-and-such a way — I bet there are a lot of people on the right who could do a good job if a good job is what they were being asked by editors to do. The Times seems to have decided when it hired Kristol that what the page needed was a direct channel to Conservative Movement Central Command or something, but it would be easy enough to save money and just republish Bill O’Reilly transcripts occasionally if that’s what you want to do.
Secretary Clinton appoints special climate envoy Todd Stern warning, “the urgency of the global climate crisis must not be underestimated”
What a day for climate news! Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced she was appointing Todd Stern Special Envoy for Climate Change (their remarks here and below). Stern will be “the Administration’s chief climate negotiator.”
The fact that this announcement was made so early on in Clinton’s tenure, and the fact that she offered a ringing defense of the science, is yet more proof that, as I argue in my Salon piece, “Real science comes to Washington at last.”
Stern is another climate catastrophist, which means he is another science realist:
Our scientists are telling us, emphatically, that the rate at which we are warming the planet is unsustainable and will cause vast and potentially catastrophic damage to our environment, our economy, and our national security.
He is also a technology optimist/realist:
Containing climate change will require nothing less than transforming the global economy from a high-carbon to a low-carbon energy base. But done right, this can free us from our dependence on foreign oil and become a driver for economic growth in the 21st century.
I worked with Todd Stern during the Clinton administration and again at the Center for American Progress. He is very knowledgeable on all climate issues, has unique experience on matters of international climate policy, and is a very serious guy. Sorry if I sound like a broken record, but this is another great administration appointment.
Here are their full remarks: