The idea of voting down the New START treaty seems like either a classic of politics over principle, or else a fundamental failure to understand the idea of agenda setting. Suppose the various conservative whines about the treaty are being offered in earnest. This adds up, at most, to an argument (surely a correct one) that had John McCain won the 2008 presidential election his administration would have negotiated a treaty with somewhat different contours in the details.
But that’s not what happened, so we got an Obamaish version of the treaty instead. But what’s the treaty? Well, it safely reduces the quantity of Russian nuclear weapons while preserving America’s ability to verify what’s happening with the remaining weapons. In exchange, the US will dismantle some weapons but still have more than enough to preserve our deterrent. Extra nukes over and beyond what’s needed to deter credibly don’t do anything for the country—they don’t add inches to our national penis or anything—it’s just an income stream for certain firms and bureaucrats who deal with the nukes. Basically in exchange for giving up nothing, we’re reducing the possibility of something terrible happening with Russia’s stockpile. And the people who want to vote the treaty down will kill that. Their stockpile will stay big, and our ability to verify what’s happening with it will go away since the old treaty has declined.
Meanwhile, foreigners will wonder wtf has happened with US foreign policy and would-be proliferators will find their efforts somewhat boosted by the collapsing credibility of the disarmament process. And all for what? A cheap political talking point on a fourth-tier issue? A bit of extra pork?
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) has become the face of GOP obstruction regarding President Obama’s push for the Senate to ratify the New START nuclear arms control treaty with Russia. Without the treaty in place, the U.S. has no legal authority to monitor Russia’s nuclear arsenal. And if New START isn’t ratified, not only will U.S.-Russian relations suffer but so will American credibility on issues such as Iran and nonproliferation. “The world’s nuclear wannabes, starting with Iran, should send a thank you note to Senator Jon Kyl,” the New York Times editorialized this week referring to Kyl’s obstruction. Today on MSNBC, Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) urged Republicans such as Kyl to support the treaty and called on Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to hold a vote on it in this lame-duck session of Congress:
LUGAR: Please do your duty for your country. We do not have verification of the Russian nuclear posture right now. We’re not going to have it until we sign the START treaty. We’re not going to be able to get rid of further missiles and warheads aimed at us. I state it candidly to my colleagues, one of those warheads…could demolish my city of Indianapolis — obliterate it! Now Americans may have forgotten that. I’ve not forgotten it and I think that most people who are concentrating on the START treaty want to move ahead to move down the ladder of the number of weapons aimed at us.
Earlier this month, several states — led by Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) — floated the idea of resisting the requirements of the health care law by opting out of the Medicaid program. Relying on a Heritage Foundation study, the states argued that they could save money by sending back million of dollars in Medicaid matching funds and designing more efficient alternatives for covering their poorest residents.
Health care wonks and economists questioned the feasibility of the scheme and this morning, during an appearance on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, Kaiser Health News reporter Marilyn Werber Serafini explained why it would only increase costs for the federal government:
SERAFINI: There is a proposal out there right now coming out of the Heritage Foundation that talks about one possible option for doing this and under this option he says 40 out of the 50 states would actually come out ahead by dropping all that federal matching funding. [...]
The states would take full responsibly for their long term care, their nursing home coverage and also for helping the folks who are on Medicare the senior citizens who still need help paying their premiums and with cost sharing. But the rest of the folks [below 133% of the poverty line] they qualify for subsidies. They buy private insurance through the exchange and therefore you’re essentially giving them full responsibility to the federal government…. If they did drop out of Medicaid, if these folks did qualify for the subsidies and were turned over to the federal government, it would meet a lot more spending by the federal government.
The federal government would have to spend more and so would the Medicaid population. Even if the poorest residents were eligible for subsidies in the exchanges (which as Serafini points out is debatable), they would have to contribute 2% of their incomes to health insurance and would likely be spending a lot more on health care than if they had stayed in the Medicaid program.
States would also have to stretch their contribution to cover individuals with disabilities and long term care services in the face of rising health care costs. Even if they somehow managed to do that, they would likely be confronted with an uptick in uncompensated care and that would and that — along with the fact that the proposal would take billions out of the state economy that goes to support hospitals and other providers — would ensure a revolt from the provider community. Hospitals and doctors would have to swallow the costs of caring for uninsured individuals who will continue to use the emergency room as their primary source of care.
As former Bush HHS Secretary Gov. Tommy Thompson (R-WI) told the New York Times this morning about Wisconsin’s expanded Medicaid program, “The program is very popular, and I don’t want the Republicans to do things that will damage them in the future.”
Conservatives would be undermining state Medicaid programs and increasing federal government expenditures on health care — which, ironically, is exactly what they say they’re trying to reduce.
You know what might be interesting? A movie where Angelina Jolie played twitchy and nervous but ultimately effective, and Johnny Depp played calm and collected to the point of ridiculousness. This is not that movie:
Oh, and where Paul Bettany played something other than menacing.
With the exception of voice work in cartoons, and maybe Franky in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, it’s worth noting that Jolie’s never really done a straight comedic role. It’s a huge lapse in her resume, and I’m surprised she’s never tried to rectify it. Maybe vamping’s easier. But it’s also lazy, and frankly, only one kind of fun. Gut-level laughts are good for the soul, no matter what kind of package said soul comes in.
Dean Baker really hates Pete Peterson. I don’t share Baker’s view of Peterson as an insidious figure, I think he’s a public spirited man who’s spent a lot of money—1 billion dollars it turns out—on a genuine effort to solve a genuine problem. But when you talk about spending a billion dollars on something, the question of priority-setting starts to become pretty urgent. And I agree with Jon Chait about “the establishment’s strange debt fetish” except for the fact that I don’t actually find it all that strange:
I do think the long-term deficit is a serious issue that I’d like to see addressed. I don’t understand the idea that this is an especially good political time to solve it. While many Democrats oppose any revisions to entitlement programs, the entire Republican party is in the grips of anti-tax dogma so powerful that not a single Republican in Congress has defied it for twenty years. Now, a moment of high Republican hubris, seems like a very unlikely moment to force the party to compromise its core policy commitment.
What’s truly bizarre is this idea that it’s the most urgent issue to address. Climate change seems clearly more urgent–and, what’s more, it’s probably irreversible. The economic crisis is also more urgent. But Washington elites are fairly removed from the cataclysmic effects of the economic crisis–they’re not losing their homes or living in economic terror. And climate change is a “partisan” issue, unworthy of the urgings of a non-partisan wise man. And so, by dint of the peculiar isolation and sociological demands of the members of the political and media establishments, the deficit must become the top priority.
Chait’s sociological observations are correct, but there’s also the small matter of the billion dollars! It’s very difficult to actually change public policy through pure force of monetary expenditures, but it’s relatively easy to focus the attention of the media on things simply by paying people to focus on it. Through the Fiscal Times and many other avenues, Peterson has directly subsidized the production of tons journalism and policy analysis on the subject he thinks is interesting. If he were a climate hawk instead of a fiscal hawk, we’d be in a better place. If he spent a bit less money on his fiscal policy endeavors and a bit more on the monetary ideas of Peterson Institute fellow Joe Gagnon the world would be a better place. It’s natural that the elite would disproportionately focus on something that a billion dollars is being spent on paying people to focus on. It’s just unfortunate.
This week on CNN, host Wolf Blitzer confronted Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) with a recent poll that found Americans don’t want to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and wondered why Schock — who has made both extending all the tax cuts and listening to the American people a priority — isn’t exactly listening to what they want. But Schock simply ignored the poll, saying, “The American people reject” letting the tax cuts expire for the wealthy.
Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) got caught playing a similar game yesterday, also on CNN with Blitzer. Pence — who has also made listening to the American people a priority — argued that in order to reduce the deficit, the government should cut spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. But when Blitzer told Pence that a recent poll showed that Americans don’t want cuts to those programs, the Indiana congressman pulled a Schock:
PENCE: Well, I don’t know if they’re saying don’t touch it. I think they’re saying for people who are on Medicare and Social Security or depending on Medicaid today, let’s keep the promises we’ve made to seniors.
To his credit, Pence did say that cuts in defense spending should be on the table as well, but he also argued that Social Security should be revamped for those under 40 years old — an age that conveniently leaves Pence out of any potential changes to the popular social program. Watch it:
Indeed, as Blitzer noted, according to a new CNN poll, while Americans do want to reduce the deficit, employing significant cuts in social programs to do it is very unpopular:
For most of the government programs tested in the poll, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, college loans, and aid to farmers and unemployed workers, Americans say that avoiding significant spending cuts is more important than reducing the deficit.
“Many of the budget cuts proposed last week by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, who are heading up a presidential commission on deficit reduction, appear to be highly unpopular, including changes to Social Security and the federal tax code,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “The public opposition to some of the proposals made by Simpson and Bowles illustrates what a hard sell spending cuts will be.”
The situation in the Senate is significantly muddier, however. While Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he will hold a vote on just extending the middle-class tax cuts as well, the prospects for passage seem dim. This because Senate Republicans have made it quite clear that they intend to vote against a middle-class only extension, holding those cuts hostage until they get an extension of tax cuts for the rich as well. During an interview with Bloomberg News yesterday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, confirmed that this is exactly what the Republicans intend to do:
Q: The President, Democrats here, they are insisting that extend only for the middle-income Americans, those households earning less than $250,000 a year. If they put a bill on the floor that only advances that, doesn’t extend for high-end earners, is Chuck Grassley going to vote in favor of that.
GRASSLEY: No, and I don’t think any other Republican will, and there’s quite a few Democrats now that won’t. There was at least five or six Democrats back in September said that that was the wrong policy and there were forty-some Democrats in the House that signed a bill saying that that was not good policy.
So this is the game that Republicans are ready and willing to play: either they get an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the richest two percent of Americans, at a cost of $830 billion over the next decade, or they let the tax code reset to where it was in 2001 and everyone’s taxes go up.
And they’re being aided by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who said yesterday that a full extension “would be OK,” and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), who said “it wasn’t a matter of who gets the tax cuts, but a matter of for how long everyone gets them for.”
When asked about the ongoing work of President Obama’s fiscal commission, Grassley warned of the current trajectory of the nation’s budget deficit, saying, “we can’t continue on that path or this generation, new generations, aren’t going to have an increase in the standard of living. He added that getting the deficit down was “the most important thing” the commission could do. Of course, one great way to get the deficit down is not spending $830 billion over the next decade to finance tax cuts for the rich.
By Climate Guest Blogger on Nov 19, 2010 at 1:37 pm
One year ago, the right-wing media machine smeared climate scientists with the “Climategate” conspiracy theory, even as the climate itself continued to get hotter and more destructive.
Although the National Academies of Science says “the U.S. should act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop a national strategy to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change,” the Republican Party is now dominated by fossil-funded ideologues who repeat zombie myths about global warming. An exclusive survey by Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson, with research support by Daily Kos blogger RL Miller, has identified the members of Congress that are on record challenging the scientific consensus:
Click the map to see the 112th Congress climate deniers in each state.
Yesterday, the Miami Herald reported that Rep. Steve King (R-IA), the incoming chairman of the subcommittee that oversees immigration, plans on pushing a bill that would modify the 14th amendment to deny “birthright citizenship” to the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants.
In an interview with Fox News’ Bill Hemmer this morning, King explained just how he plans to go about radically changing citizenship requirements. According to King, it doesn’t involve a Constitutional amendment, but rather, simply reinterpreting the 14th amendment in a way that would treat undocumented immigrants like foreign diplomats and exclude them from being subject to the jurisdiction of U.S. laws:
HEMMER: The critics are going to say “why deny citizenship to a child?” Your argument is what?
KING: Well it’s really pretty simple. There is an industry that has grown up out of this that pregnant woman come into the United States illegally so that they can have a family that’s anchored to their citizenship and anchored to American benefits.
HEMMER: You can find countless examples of that I’m certain. [...] But you would need a Constitutional amendment to do away with this. That is a huge mountain to climb.
KING: I don’t agree Bill. Let me say that when you look at the scholarship on this — and I don’t present myself as a lead scholar — but I listen to some of them however and I read the text of it: all persons born within the United States and subject to jurisdiction thereof shall be American citizens. [...]
HEMMER: So you would argue that it’s the language and the interpretation of the amendment?
KING: I would say so. That clause is there. If it weren’t there, then I think they would have a case. But the proper way to go about this is: pass the law banning birthright citizenship and then certainly the people on the other side will litigate…and we’ll fight out on the other side of this what the will in the Supreme Court is.
To begin with, King’s claim that pregnant women are crossing the border into the U.S. in droves to have U.S. citizenship is unsubstantiated. Earlier this year, the Associated Press reported that, though it exists, the trend is “not as dramatic as some immigration opponents have claimed.” Jeffrey Passel, a demographer at the Pew Hispanic Research Center, told The Associated Press that out of the 340,000 babies born to undocumented immigrants in the United States in 2008, 85 percent of the parents had been in the country for more than a year, and more than half for at least five years. They didn’t come to the U.S. just to wait five years to have a U.S. citizen child who they could “anchor” themselves to. They came to the U.S. to work, and over time, had families.
Furthermore, Princeton University sociologist Douglas Massey explains that enforcement-only solutions like the ones King promotes only make the situation worse: “They [undocumented women] end up having babies in the United States because men can no longer circulate freely back and forth from homes in Mexico to jobs in the United States and husbands and wives quite understandably want to be together.”
Secondly, King clearly doesn’t understand the dangerous implications of mandating that anyone who comes to the U.S. illegally is not subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. government. King’s interpretation of the 14th amendment could create a situation in which, rather than being legally defined and treated as removable “illegal aliens,” undocumented immigrants could only be declared personae non gratae — a legal term under international law used to refer to “unwelcome” foreigners, usually diplomats, who are inherently under the jurisdiction of their home governments.
The personae non grata designation is completely discretionary and “[e]xpulsion is not the automatic consequence of the declaration.” In other words, by reinterpreting the 14th amendment in the manner that King suggests, when undocumented immigrants (or their children under this new schema) commit a crime they are no longer subject to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts and legal authorities. It’s hard to imagine King — or anyone else for that matter — would be on board with that.
I never like to visit a place without checking out its local parking regulations. So I found the New Haven zoning ordinance and I looked up the quantity of parking that you need to build in order to construct something in the designated zones for “General High-Density Residential”:
One parking space per dwelling unit (except that only one parking space shall be required for each two elderly housing units) located either on the same lot as the principal building or within 300 feet walking distance of an outside entrance to the dwelling unit to which such parking space is assigned, and conforming to section 29 and the remainder of the General Provisions for Residence Districts in Article IV.
To repeat my usual spiel, this will tend to reduce the economic efficiency of the city in which the rule is in force. What’s more, it will drive the market price of housing higher than it otherwise would be will driving the market price of parking lower than it otherwise would be. Since cars are expensive and poor people often don’t own them, whereas well-to-do families may own several, this amounts to a regressive transfer from the poor to the rich. On top of all that, artificially cheap parking is bad for the environment.
Also note that the density we’re talking about here is not in fact very high:
Maximum gross floor area: No such building or buildings shall have a gross floor area greater than 0.5 times the lot area; except that this floor area may be increased by 0.1 times the lot area (up to a maximum of 1.7 times the lot area) for each one percent of lot area by which the building coverage of the principal building or buildings is reduced below the maximum of 25% of lot area set by subparagraph (c) above.
Does it really make sense for the government of an under-populated and economically depressed city to be saying “no thanks” to real estate developers who might want to make a very large investment in the city? There’s a place in life for economic distortions, but that place is not when the distortions are also pro-pollution and your city has a poverty rate way above the national average.