Saturday, February 28, 2009

Math Is Hard, Part II

Okay, I can do this. Just think it through...

I raise the top tax rate from 35% to 39.6% in my awesome new budget plan for 2010, but even that's not enough to pay for all the rad things I want to do. I really thought there were more rich people. Or that they were richer. It's like all their stocks have lost half their value, too, just like all the stocks those non-rich people have in their IRA and 401(k) accounts. Weird.

Now if I raise the top tax rate even higher, Speaker Nancy might like it, but the Blue Dogs will become a wolf pack. And if I raise taxes on everyone else, people will think I'm just another politician who says one thing and does another. Even worse, I can kiss that second term good-bye. So how can I raise taxes even more on those still-sort-of-rich people but not look like that's really what I'm doing?

I can do this. Think it through...

I know, I'll cut their deduction for the interest they pay on their mortgages. After all, it's not like I just proposed a $75 billion mortgage affordability plan to stop a crisis of foreclosures and help people afford to stay in their homes.

Hmmmm, that's still not enough to pay for everything? Weird.

I know, I'll cut their deduction for charitable contributions, too. They always give their money to the wrong people and organizations anyway. It's not like it goes to help fund churches, museums, food banks, arts groups, charities that fight poverty overseas, and things like that. If they just give the money to me instead, then I can keep some of it to pay for, well, whatever, and I can send the rest to truly deserving groups. Like ACORN.

Hmmmm, even that's still not enough to pay for everything? Weird.

Math is really hard...

"Foul Ball"

More at Diversity Lane...

Friday, February 27, 2009

Math Is Hard

Okay, I can do this. Just think it through...

I start out inheriting a trillion-dollar-plus deficit from George Dubya. I immediately double that with my trillion-dollar-plus stimulus package. Then Speaker Pelosi and the House Democrats send out a bill with another $410 billion in additional spending. I go and ask for $250 billion over and above the $700 billion in TARP funds from George Dubya, then call for $634 billion on top of that to create a reserve fund to bankroll health care reform. And there's that whole $3.6 trillion federal budget I'm proposing for next year. So how am I going to cut the deficit in half by 2013 while only raising taxes on just 5% of Americans like I keep promising?

Math is hard...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Banker Guy" Weighs In...

Over at Hugh Hewitt's blog, Banker Guy, "a bank CEO who prefers to remain behind the veil," has some worthwhile thoughts on Obama's foreclosure plan and Rick Santelli:

There are two parts to the plan – a refinance plan and a lower payment plan.

The refinance plan applies only to those whose loan is owned or securitized by Fannie or Freddie. This part actually will work. What this part really does is reduce underwriting criteria at Fannie and Freddie. It enables homeowners whose loan-to-value ratio would be over 80% to qualify to refinance. Refinancing to lower your interest rate is good; lowering credit criteria to do it is not good. But then Fan and Fred already have exposure to the collateral (the house), so getting a more affordable payment makes sense. Fannie and Freddie hold or guarantee about 40% of all mortgages outstanding. This plan seems fair since it applies to homeowners who would qualify for refinancing except for the value being down which was not their fault.

The lower payment plan is more controversial and probably not workable. Treasury will partner with lenders to reduce monthly payments. If lenders reduce interest (or principal) so a borrower would have a mortgage payment-to-income ratio of 38%, then Treasury will match the lender to reduce the ratio further to 31%. Treasury will also “reward” borrowers a $1,000 for every year they make these new lower payments. This is what got Rick Santelli of CNBC riled up. His point is well taken. This part of the plan helps someone who took out a high interest rate loan – most likely a subprime loan. Those borrowers who acted responsibly will get no help and will pay taxes to help those who were not as sensible. It is unclear how many homeowners the lower payment plan will actually help. It is limited to home owners with a conventional mortgage (generally less than $417,000). It is a voluntary program – lenders do not have to participate. It will be very complicated to address by mortgage servicers since nearly 70% of all home mortgages are held in pools and sold as securities or collateralized loan obligations.
Banker Guy also describes an aspect I'm not sure Robert Gibbs fully described when he suggested that Santelli download, print, and read the plan:
One of the more damaging aspects of this plan is judicial modifications or “mortgage cram-downs.” This will have to passed by Congress but the House version has unlimited judicial discretion where bankruptcy judges can change the provisions of mortgages and develop “affordable” plans – 100 year mortgages could be an outcome. There are over 400 bankruptcy judges and the potential for 400 different guidelines for modifications. Not only would it be an administrative nightmare but will significantly discourage any lender from making new loans or, at least, charge a significantly higher rate.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have affected mortgage rates for years. This is why banks and thrifts hold only about a quarter of all mortgages. Fannie and Freddie have had access to lower cost funds because of implied or actual Treasury guaranties. They have been much more leveraged, which means less capital required. They obviously have mispriced credit and (I won’t go into the details now) have mispriced the ability to refinance. So mortgages are not profitable assets for banks to own. This plan will further this rate difference and shift more of the market to the government and away from banks.
I think I'll go spend some time over at Angry Renter...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

President Obama's First Speech to Congress

I didn't watch it. I was too busy working late into the evening so that I could bill enough hours to cover my Self-Employment Tax.

There's a parable in there, somewhere...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What Will Be... overly busy day also requires a blast of Sir Tom Jones!

Monday, February 23, 2009

What Has Been... overly busy day requires a blast of Sir Tom Jones!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Yin and Yang of California

Saturday, February 21, 2009

And Our New Age of Non-Political Science Continues...

Remember, James Hansen is a scientist. He's not an activist, political or otherwise.

So, the "science is very clear" that our only "practical" option is to stop using coal. Completely. Because using science, technology, and human ingenuity to develop better emissions-control technologies and carbon-sequestration methods is a total waste of time. The "science is very clear" about this. And so on March 2nd, we must all flock to Washington, DC, for what he hopes will be the largest protest of its kind.

Remember, James Hansen is a scientist. He's not an activist, political or otherwise.

Like when he said that coal-fired power plants were "factories of death" and the trains carrying the coal to those plants were "death trains." That's non-political science. That's not activism in favor of specific policy choices. Because "science" leaves no room for dissent regarding metaphorical imagery.

Remember, James Hansen is a scientist. He's not an activist, political or otherwise.

I know he's a scientist because he said we need to convince Congress and the president to take the actions necessary to "preserve climate." Otherwise, young people and future generations someday might not have any climate. Wording like that is why peer-reviewed, scientific journals hire people like me to edit scientists like him. So James Hansen must be a scientist, not an activist.

And that ominous music? Well, that's the soundtrack of non-political science at its best. I understand they play it for the engineers on those "death trains." So case closed.

Because James Hansen is as scientist. He's not an activist, political or otherwise.

(Hat Tip: Tim Blair)

Gibbs (Tries to) Spin-Slap Santelli!

Margarine-tongued spin-boy for the Obama administration Robert Gibbs responds to Rick Santelli's outburst of honesty on CNBC:

Let me see if I have this right...

First, Mr. Santelli lives in a stealth house in a stealth neighborhood, and until his address and property assessment appear on Mr. Gibbs' radar, Mr. Santelli should apparently stay quiet on this issue. Being an American citizen who pays the taxes that will cover all the borrowed money and interest to fund this foreclosure plan isn't qualification enough to have an opinion. It's just $75 billion after all, which is basically a rounding error in the stimulus bill.

Second, Mr. Gibbs spends a little time each day reading, studying, and talking to smart people about these economic issues, unlike a veteran reporter for a news network that covers finance, business, and the economy. Well, I'm certainly glad we cleared that up!

Third, foreclosures are bad, and the best way to deal with the foreclosure crisis and all those Americans who are losing their homes is, as Mr. Gibbs describes it, by funnelling $75 billion of money we don't have to homeowners who are current on their mortgages and not actually in danger of foreclosure themselves. Because this way, they can refinance those mortgages that they're already able to pay on time each month and get a better deal. Because foreclosures are bad.

Seriously, I don't know which is more maddening -- that Santelli is right, and we're about to spend $75 billion of money we don't have to help irresponsible homeowners who bought more house than they could afford or took out second mortgages to fund a lifestyle they couldn't afford, or that Gibbs is right, and we're actually about to spend $75 billion of money we don't have to help homeowners who can already afford their current mortgage and are not at risk of foreclosure get a better deal.

Maybe Robert Gibbs can buy me a cup of coffee instead, because either way, the purchase of my own future first house is going to be pushed that much farther out of reach.

Still. The Worst. White House. Press Secretary. Ever.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Pop Quiz: California Budget Edition

Which of the following is the real California State Senator Abel Maldonado?

1) The one who raged against raising taxes less than a year ago at the 2008 Republican National Convention?

2) The one who just provided the decisive vote to raise California taxes by more than $12 billion dollars, or an estimated $1,100 annually for an average family of four?

(Hint: Some people change. Others grit their teeth and do what they come to believe is necessary. And still others think they can dance up the middle in the spotlight.)

Santelli Says It All...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Man Who Just Killed California

See the man on the right in the photo below? That's California State Senator Abel Maldonado, a Republican from Santa Maria. He just provided the final vote needed in Sacramento to pass the budget package that will increase taxes in California by more than $12 billion.

He's probably smiling because he got open primaries in return for his vote. Except he didn't. Because open primaries still have to be approved as a constitutional amendment by the voters. So in exchange for killing the already faltering economy of California -- not to mention his own political career -- he got a ballot initiative, and nothing more. (Maybe he can be a consultant for his next career, and advise people on how to negotiate the best deal.)

My current political depression has had two sides. The first has been Washington, DC. The second has been Sacramento.

You have to wonder what they were thinking. California already has the sixth highest state/local tax burden in our nation. Our unemployment rate is above 9%. More people are leaving California each year than are moving to the state. In fact, more people left California last year than left any other state. And in this situation, Governor Schwarzenneger, the state legislature, and Abel Maldonado feel the intelligent thing to do is raise taxes.

And just which taxes are they raising?

Vehicle license fee nearly doubles to 1.15%.
That's a percentage of the value of the car, by the way. And if anyone ever needed proof that Arnold Schwarzenegger has failed not just as a reformer but even just as a caretaker governor, this is it. Because one of the issues that gave him the governor's office in the first place was the increase in the car tax that his predecessor, Gray Davis, had put in place.
Sales tax rises 1 cent.
We already have a base sales tax of 7.25%. With the additional local and supplementary additions that vary throughout the state, it can already reach 9.25% in some areas.
Gasoline tax rises 12 cents a gallon.
The gasoline tax in California is already 45.5 cents per gallon -- the highest in the nation.
Surcharge on income taxes of 2.5% to 5%.
Again, we already have one of the highest and most progressively structured state income taxes in the country, but this surcharge is on everyone. Not just the billionaires. Not just the millionaires. Not just the "wealthy." Everyone. So whatever your state income tax bill, just add another 2.5% to 5.0% onto it.
Dependent care tax credit reduces by $200.

This is the most amazing thing to me -- and the one that infuriates me most. It's also the most politically stupid tax increase imaginable. Because this is not a deduction against income. This is a credit against your actual taxes owed. So everyone who has a child in California now owes an additional $200 per child. Not just the billionaires. Not just the millionaires. Not just the "wealthy." Everyone.

And don't forget the 2.5% to 5.0% surcharge on top of that extra $200 per child.

Thanks, Abel.

Really, thank you. Because not only does this wipe out any tax relief from the federal stimulus package, it leaves us in even worse shape now in terms of taxes overall. And that means less money to spend, less money to save, less money to pay off debt, and less money to invest. Which means more and more of our best and our brightest fleeing for other states, eroding the California tax base still further, which in the end will mean less tax revenue flowing to Sacramento.

Like the federal government, California had a chance to face up to the task, to get serious, and to finally do something substantial and worthwhile. And like the federal government, California just blew it.

So thanks, Abel. I hear Arlen Specter wants to buy you a drink...

UPDATE: So is the title of this post my own bit of political hyperbole? Ask me again in a year or so, because at this moment, "The Man Who Just Killed California" accurately reflects how serious I believe the damage from this budget deal will be. Even the Democrats in Congress, for crying out loud, still had enough remaining sense not to raise taxes in the middle of an economic crisis...

UPDATE II: The Los Angeles Times is now reporting that the 12-cents-per-gallon increase in the gas tax "was eliminated in the final hours" and will be "replaced with federal economic stimulus money."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Biden and Specter Unplugged

"I wouldn't worry about your vote putting the stimulus bill over the top, Arlen. Just look at me. I had a presidential campaign blown out of the water because I plagiarized another politician's speech. I opposed the Surge, and even Obama says it was successful beyond our wildest dreams. I thought we should have carved up Iraq into three separate countries, and they just had violence-free elections that kicked the religious extremists to the curb. Heck, my mouth is a walking international incident, but here I am, the Vice President of the United States."

"So when President Obama finally throws you under the bus, you're saying I get to be Vice President?"

"You're a funny guy, Arlen. Maybe you can have your own public-access cable show when the voters kick you out of office..."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

And Our New Age of Non-Political Science Dawns...

James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, writes in The Observer this past Sunday:

The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains. Coal-fired power plants are factories of death.
Isn't it nice that under the Obama administration, scientists like Dr. Hansen will no longer be "silenced"? And that science (and scientists) will no longer be politicized and, instead, will deal only in hard facts and hard data?

My Current Cure for Political Depression

Monday, February 16, 2009

Paradox of Patriotism

From The Captain:

Watching the new administration, and the new ruling party (I have always loved the inherent checks and balances of one party in the White House, and the other controlling the Congress) and the way they are handling the "stimulus" bill... where to begin?

For the first time in my life, I'm seeing an instantaneous massive spending orgy that's supposed to help lead the country away from a supposed financial precipice. I wasn't around for the New Deal, the proposed solution to the economic Depression. I didn't get to see how the first FDR administration put together the WPA, CCC, TVA, and the rest of the efforts that were supposed to revitalize the economy. What brought about the end of the Depression is still being debated.

The first vestiges of the modern Nanny State were born under FDR's leadership. The axiom that no government program or agency can ever truly be ended or closed is based on the entitlement programs that resulted from the New Deal. The only reasons that any of the New Deal constructs went away is because they were succeeded by even bigger efforts, or that World War II made it impossible to continue them. Had the Depression run its (incredible) course by the end of the thirties? Did the production of machinery and weaponry to partially arm the rest of the world's forces lift the US economy on its feet again? Did the WPA and the other job programs play a large part, or do little more than give many American workers a paycheck instead of an unemployment check? And is there all that much of a difference between the two in the long run?

And what does it have to do with my patriotic paradox? Well, I think that the "stimulus" will fail to achieve the goals tossed about in the many sound bites which urged its passage. The hope of last autumn was replaced by the partisan attacks and fearmongering you have all heard, unless you've been vacationing in a terribly remote location for the last month. And if the "stimulus" fails to do much of anything, except send the federal debt soaring...Then What? Since the middle class and small businesses have been given damned little in the way of tax relief, the two turbines which power the American economy remain at idle. I don't see any of the pork or inefficient "infrastructure" initiatives jump-starting a thing. And if they don't, we have wasted more time and a hell of a lot of tax dollars (almost all to be paid by us, in our future). The crisis WILL have become a catastrophe, due to the reckless, spendthrift nature of this Congress and the Enabler In Chief.

And my country will suffer if such catastrophe falls upon it. That which I have protected, and continue to serve...will be without protection, and unable to lead. But suddenly, opposition to the party in power is UNpatriotic; suddenly, speaking out is not a tribute to independence and American traditions. Rushing to do something, anything, is absolutely better that debating the right thing.

I don't feel like standing quite as tall nowadays. My salute isn't just as crisp and steady as it was only a few weeks ago. And while my faith in God is just as strong, my faith and hope in humans, in my fellow Americans, is not.

Tomorrow's a day of work for me; perhaps I can find a spark to inspire me. The strong, steady leadership of Presidents like Washington and Lincoln seems much further in America's past than it felt before. Leaders who could do more than give good speeches seem so much more important to me right now.
I know how he feels...

Ode to Trader Joe's

You can't live where I do without shopping at Trader Joe's. When I first moved to Hollywood and was flat broke, I survived on a weekly, $20 grocery run at the Trader Joe's around the corner from my apartment. And today, it's the place to find everything you've never heard of, to not find everything you got addicted to just before they stopped carrying it, and to meet the occasional "D" or even "E" list celebrity as you both reach into the freezer for that last box of tofu posing as ice cream.

Take wine, for example. Where else can you find wine with nothing but a big, colorful question mark on the bottle?

Or a big, angry bird that practically dares you to pull out a corkscrew?

Or a face the promises how happy you'll be, if you drink just enough?

Or, better yet, a big honkin' pancake that shows what you'll hallucinate, if you drink too much?

The true Trader Joe's experience, however, is so much more. The only thing that even comes close to capturing it is this little song and video by Carl Willat:

If and when I ever leave California, I hope the place I move to will have a Trader Joe's...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Boehner Says It All...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Statement of Political Depression

For the first time in my 43 years of life, I actually find politics depressing.

This is a hard thing for me to admit, because I've been a political junkie for as long as I can remember. Whether in my liberal Democratic days or my swing voter days or my current Republican-leaning days, that was the one constant. I loved the nuts and bolts of it, the strategies, and even a good spin. And though I often found myself angry, or confused, or inspired, or in the opposition, or defending a policy the administration at the time did a lousy job of defending, I still had a love for the process. I still soaked it in. I still craved to read and know and watch everything political that I could.

My first post on this blog was making a statement about "Obama Derangement Syndrome" and McCain voters not giving Obama the chance that he'd earned. And I've given him even more benefit of the doubt since then than I ever thought I had in me. I've admitted that his appointments and actions during the transition were better than I had a right to expect, all things considered. I was hopeful that once he took that oath, that once he actually sat in that chair, that when the weight of his responsibilities truly made themselves felt on his shoulders, well, I was hopeful that he would rise to the office and be the president that we need.

Instead, in less than a month, Barack Obama has lost me. And more completely than I would have thought possible.

I could overlook the inept press secretary. I could look past the roster of Cabinet nominees who were tax cheats. I could get beyond his overly apologetic for America and misreading of history interview on al-Arabiya. I could overlook (though with some real effort) all his other historical examples that actually made the opposite point of the one that he was trying for. I could suspend my disbelief at his apparent view that we've had no discussions or contacts or communication with Iran over the last several years. I could even grit my teeth and ignore the latest inanity and international incident in the making from the mouth of Vice President Joe Biden. I was willing to be proved wrong not just about the Obama administration, but also about my former party, which I had left somewhere around the middle of the Clinton administration.

The stimulus bill has shown me the error of my ways.

During that near-endless campaign that eventually delivered the Oval Office to Barack Obama, I remember sitting in Canada and talking with a man who might as well be my father-in-law. He told me how the Republicans simply were not equipped to deal with all the problems America faces. I agreed with him, too, and I said so. But I also said, "The real killer is, the Democrats are even less equipped to deal with those problems than the Republicans are."

I didn't want to be proved right about that. I really, really didn't.

But a president who truly wants to change the level of discourse in Washington, who honestly wants to bring this country together, simply does not let Nancy Pelosi be in charge of writing the largest spending bill in the history of mankind. He doesn't say one moment how he hopes the bill can be improved, then accuse those who point out flaws in that same bill of wanting to "do nothing." He doesn't highlight the problem of deficits and then more than double what's already the largest single deficit in American history. He doesn't preach shared sacrifice, then hold a partisan pep rally at a luxury resort on the taxpayer's dime.

I could go on, but there are so many things to list, and so little time.

I'm used to hypocrisy from politicians, of course, and especially from presidents. Some amount of hypocrisy is a grim necessity not just of political life, but of real life as well. But I honestly cannot remember ever seeing such a stark chasm between what a president said he would do and be and what a president actually does and is. Or ever seeing such a stark chasm so quickly.

It took me years to reach this point with Bill Clinton. Barack Obama brought me here in only weeks.

I wasn't expecting him to always agree with me. I wasn't expecting him to be the president I thought McCain would have been, or the president I would have wanted. I came into this with relatively low expectations for President Obama, and with a lot of benefit of the doubt on offer. I should have been the easiest of the "opposition" to keep somewhere near his corner.

It wouldn't have taken much, either. Just an acknowledgement that opponents of the stimulus package, however wrong President Obama thinks they might be, are acting out of honestly held beliefs and good faith. Just a notch less fear- and catastrophe-mongering from the Oval Office. Just a few more days for the representatives and senators actually voting on the bill to actually read the bill. Just some indication, however small, that it was President Obama, not Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid, who was really running this show.

I still wouldn't have liked the outcome, I grant you. I still would have thought the stimulus bill is a trillion-dollar mistake our grandchildren will be paying for (on top of all the other mistakes we've made that they'll be paying for). But I would have come out of this liking and respecting the man occupying the White House much more than I do now. And with four years left to go, he's going to need that good will and acknowledgement of his good faith from the other side, if we're going to deal with all the other problems that also face us right now. But instead, he's managed to poison the well, right at the start.

And for the first time in my life, I actually find politics depressing. And the optimism I've always had is becoming harder and harder to find.

Hope and change, indeed...

Pelosi Victorious

"As a matter of fact, I asked my own grandchildren that very same question. And they said, 'Nana Speaker, we'll be happy to pay off all the additional debt this stimulus package will be leaving us.' Next question?"

Still. The Worst. White House. Press Secretary. Ever.

Yes, Mr. Gibbs. Representative Schock should look through the stimulus bill so he can discover all the wonderful things contained within. The version that came out of the House-Senate conference committee and passed both chambers of Congress is only somewhere above 1,000 pages, after all. And Speaker Pelosi gave the House members, like Rep. Schock, all of 24 hours to review it before the vote. That should be more than enough time to fully consider the largest single spending bill in, oh, the entire history of mankind?

Then again, why worry? Senator Chuck Schumer has his finger on the pulse of the American people, and he's not worried. No, he's not worried at all.

Sorry, Senator Schumer, but I actually do care -- a lot -- about those "little, tiny, yes, porky amendments." So do a lot of others who make up "the American people."

Keep this up, and come the midterm elections in 2010, the Democrats will find out just how many of us there actually are.

Friday, February 13, 2009

C-SPAN: The Lost Episode

We now rejoin the testimony of Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner regarding details of the Obama administration's plan to deal with the current banking and credit crisis...

"Frankly, Senator, I got nothing..."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Future Proofing! With the Extreme Weather Heroes!

I admit, I giggled like a young girl when I watched this:

Future proofing? By teenagers? Who really are called Extreme Weather Heroes at a website featuring one of the funkier pictures of Mikhail Gorbachev that I've ever seen?

You just know this whole concept was thought up in a room like the one below, filled with people like the ones below, having a conversation like the one you're about to watch:

(Hat Tip: Tim Blair)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Current State of My Non-Blog Workload

(Translation: Light posting for a while...)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

More Sci-Fi Nostalgia

During my sci-fi childhood, after the shining hope that was Gerry Anderson's UFO came the shining hope that was Gerry Anderson's Space: 1999...

Pretty rockin', eh?

Of course, the science was beyond wrong. Nuclear waste stored on the moon suddenly explodes, not destroying earth's only natural satellite but somehow sending it out of orbit and into the darkness of deep space? Where they come within range of a new planet full of alien wonders and horrors each week? Or happen upon other alien wonders and horrors between those planets each week? Really? Are you kidding me? Even at 10 years of age I was enough of a science nerd to have problems with that.



These were episodes I hadn't already seen 40 or 50 times, like Star Trek. Or seen 10 or 20 times, like all those Irwin Allen extravaganzas. And they ranged from pretty cerebral attempts at psychedelic sci-fi plots mixed with big honkin' space explosions, like the episode "War Games," to pretty bizarre, anything-for-ratings episodes, like "Devil's Planet."

You do remember "Devil's Planet," right? The episode where one of their ships crashes on a dead planet's moon that turns out to be a giant prison? Only the prisoners have no idea that everyone on their homeworld is dead? Because the guards -- who are all shapely, athletic women wearing red body-stockings and high-heeled boots and wielding, ah, whips -- have kept that dark secret from them?

Thankfully, my mother never saw me watching that particular episode...

Best of all, though, were the effects. They put serious money into this show, and the effects were movie quality for the time. Considering this was made in the days before computer graphics, when they used actual models on actual wires, these shots hold up amazing well. Especially the design of the Eagle transporter...

Just look at that thing. More than 30 years years later, it still feels like something we might actually build.

Of course, according to the show, we were supposed to be flying those 10 years ago. And in reality, we're arguing today about when to retire the Space Shuttle, what will take its place, and how we're going to spend several years depending on the Russians to put any Americans into space.

The present just ain't what it was supposed to be, back when it was still the future...

Saturday, February 7, 2009

In My Town...

...all bread is leavened with magic pixie dust...

...feral peacocks roam the suburban wilds... status is determined by the size of your dashboard Jesus...

...and Nixon shows up in the most unexpected places...

I love this town. I really, really do.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Obligatory Stimulus Quote Post, Part IV

Associated Press:

President Barack Obama decried as "inexcusable and irresponsible" the delay of his economic recovery legislation in Congress with an estimated 3.6 million Americans losing their jobs since the recession began.
Jacob Sullum:
Indeed, pausing to ask whether offering Medicaid to millionaires, giving $1 billion to perpetually penurious Amtrak, devoting $44 billion to "clean energy," or boosting the budget of the National Endowment for the Arts is a good idea would be reckless at a time like this. "When it comes to rebuilding our economy," Obama warned just before the House approved the pseudo-stimulus bill, "we don't have a moment to spare." Acting responsibly, in other words, would be irresponsible.
New York Times:
Japan’s rural areas have been paved over and filled in with roads, dams and other big infrastructure projects, the legacy of trillions of dollars spent to lift the economy from a severe downturn caused by the bursting of a real estate bubble in the late 1980s. During those nearly two decades, Japan accumulated the largest public debt in the developed world — totaling 180 percent of its $5.5 trillion economy — while failing to generate a convincing recovery.
Bob Shrum:
In fact, as I’ve pointed out before, from 1933 through 1937, unemployment declined year on year in what was then the largest period of uninterrupted growth in American history; the Dow-Jones Industrial average rose nearly 400 percent. The New Deal only faltered afterwards, in 1938, as the President prematurely moved toward a balanced budget with less stimulative spending—precisely the course the Romneys, Kyls and Republican ideologues now demand.
New York Times:
Among ordinary Japanese, the spending is widely disparaged for having turned the nation into a public-works-based welfare state and making regional economies dependent on Tokyo for jobs. Much of the blame has fallen on the Liberal Democratic Party, which has long used government spending to grease rural vote-buying machines that help keep the party in power.
President Barack Obama:
A failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe.
Charles Krauthammer:
Catastrophe, mind you. So much for the president who in his inaugural address two weeks earlier declared "we have chosen hope over fear." Until, that is, you need fear to pass a bill.
Glenn Reynolds:
INTERESTED IN CONTACTING YOUR SENATORS ABOUT THE STIMULUS? The main number is (202) 224-3121. And here’s a page of contact information with direct numbers, etc.
[A]s we noted here, public support for the pork bill has dropped by a net seventeen points in just two weeks. That can fairly be described as "free-fall."
Glenn Reynolds:
PEOPLE CALLING THEIR SENATORS ABOUT THE STIMULUS are emailing that they’re getting “all circuits busy” signals. You can always call their local offices if you can’t get through to the Capitol.
Rasmussen Reports:
Support for the economic recovery plan working its way through Congress has fallen again this week. For the first time, a plurality of voters nationwide oppose the $800-billion-plus plan.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC):
People are running scared in the Senate because this bill is stinking up the place.
Washington Post:
Senate Democratic leaders conceded yesterday that they do not have the votes to pass the stimulus bill as currently written and said that to gain bipartisan support, they will seek to cut provisions that would not provide an immediate boost to the economy.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY):
[To give the proposed economic stimulus plan some perspective,] if you started the day Jesus Christ was born and spent $1 million every day since then, you still wouldn’t have spent $1 trillion.
Virginia Postrel:
[T]he cost to taxpayers isn't the biggest problem with the bill's protectionism. A trade war threatens to exacerbate the single largest danger in the worldwide downturn: that a serious contraction in China will lead to domestic unrest and that that the Chinese government will engage in military aggression to focus frustration outward.
Andrew Taylor:
Obama said the criticisms he has heard "echo the very same failed economic theories that led us into this crisis in the first place, the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems... I reject those theories, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change."
Rasmussen Reports:
A stimulus plan that includes only tax cuts is now more popular than the economic recovery plan being considered in Congress.
Jerry Pournelle:
The tax cut provision of the "stimulus bill" seem aimed at solidifying party control: most of it is transfer payments to people who don't now pay taxes. In the US 40% don't pay federal taxes. If any large number of those are given money as transfer payments they will learn to rely on them. At which point they will be motivated to vote. And community organizers will see that they do vote. Now understand: many of those who get negative income taxes do necessary work and they aren't very well paid. The question becomes, is that a federal problem, and should it be dealt with by transfer payments? Because once this is instituted, it's going to be pretty permanent. Those affected by it will be mobilized to defend it, and it will mean more to them than it does to those opposed. So it goes.
Bob Shrum:
They won’t admit it, but like the de facto leader of their party, Rush Limbaugh, Republicans want the President to “fail.” Their arguments—if one can dignify them as such—are by turns petty, dishonest or ignorant, ahistorical and ugly.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi:
Every month that we do not have an economic recovery package, 500 million Americans lose their jobs. I don't think we can go fast enough to stop that.
According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the resident population of the United States, projected to 02/04/09 at 23:00 GMT (EST+5) is 305,749,528.
Nancy Pelosi: Dumber than soap.
Glenn Reynolds:
I don’t know that this really makes Nancy Pelosi “dumber than soap.” But if Sarah Palin had said this, it would be taken as proof that she was unsuited for national politics.
Moe Lane:
No, really, Glenn: Dumber than soap.
When Obama finally spoke, he called Pelosi “a rock” and “the great speaker of the House.” And he said that House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey and other House chairmen had acted with “discipline” in passing their version of the stimulus bill.
Michael O'Brien:
"So what?" [House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wisc.)] asked in response to a question on NPR's "Morning Edition" about the perceived lack of direction from Congress as to how money in the stimulus should be spent.
Michael Hirsh:
When you are dealing with a stimulus of this size, there are going to be wasteful expenditures and boondoggles. There's no way anyone can spend $800 to $900 billion quickly without waste and boondoggles. It comes with the Keynesian territory. This is an emergency; the normal rules do not apply.
Washington Times:
A top House Republican is demanding an investigation into whether the more than $2 billion for national parks in the House stimulus package is proper in light of the fact that the chief lobbyist for the National Parks Conservation Association is the son of House Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey.
Air Force One makes its maiden flight with the new president tomorrow afternoon, when Obama takes a one-day "out and back excursion" to the House Democratic Caucus retreat at the Kingsmill Resort and Spa in Williamsburg, Va.
Greg Pollowitz:
He's taking a 747 from Andrews Air Force Base to Williamsburg? It's 157 miles. And with the country in recession, couldn't the Dems have met in D.C. rather than the luxurious Kingsmill Resort?
Washington Times:
"Well, I'd — you know, I'd — Williamsburg is — has a lofty place in our country's history," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said, when asked if there was any special significance to the president's choice. "I don't know that there's any great symbolism in this one in particular," he added at Wednesday's briefing off the West Wing.

Mr. Obama will head to Kingsmill Resort and Spa in the historical Virginia city to start a three-day planning session. The resort boasts multiple championship golf courses, a full-service spa and six restaurants, noted the Hill newspaper, which broke the story about the Democratic retreats.
Patterico's Pontifications:
Say it with me: shared sacrifice!
Washington Times:
Democrats will ride together to the resort on a chartered Amtrak train at a cost to taxpayers of about $70,000, the Hill reported. Taxpayers will also foot the bill for security helicopters to fly above the train. The caucus will spend thousands: In 2003, for example, they spent $11,200 on food and $6,900 on entertainment, the paper said.

The trip comes after several Democratic lawmakers criticized American International Group Inc. executives for spending nearly $500,000 at a company retreat in California just days after the federal government bailed the company out with $85 billion in taxpayer funds. In addition, Wells Fargo & Co., which received $25 billion in taxpayer bailout money and recently announced a $2.3 billion loss for the last quarter of 2008, canceled its planned 12-night junket to expensive hotels in Las Vegas for events that included a luxurious four-day employee sales conference.

[White House Press Secretary Robert] Gibbs said the Vegas trip "didn't happen because of the diligent work of many in the reporting of these and the outcry that ensued." But no one in the briefing room Wednesday asked about the expensive Democratic retreat.
Jacob Sullum:
Last October, while campaigning in Toledo, Barack Obama called for "a new ethic of responsibility." The nation's economic troubles, he said, occurred partly because "everyone was living beyond their means," including politicians who "spent money they didn't have."
Charles Krauthammer:
After Obama's miraculous 2008 presidential campaign, it was clear that at some point the magical mystery tour would have to end. The nation would rub its eyes and begin to emerge from its reverie. The hallucinatory Obama would give way to the mere mortal. The great ethical transformations promised would be seen as a fairy tale that all presidents tell -- and that this president told better than anyone.

I thought the awakening would take six months. It took two and a half weeks.
Bob Shrum:
But spending won’t work, according to the conservative oppositionists. Look at the New Deal, they say, it failed! This Republican fiction assumes that in 1936 Americans suffered from mass delusion as they reelected FDR in a huge landslide. Apparently voters hadn’t noticed his conspicuous failure in office.
Daily Mirror Headline After the 2004 Re-election of George W. Bush:
How could 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?
Washington Post:
[O]n a 52 to 45 vote, the chamber stripped $246 million in tax breaks for Hollywood production companies, a measure offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the Senate's self-appointed watchdog on federal spending. Coburn, who almost always loses his quixotic efforts to cut funding, appeared jubilant -- if somewhat surprised -- by his unexpected victory.
Obama, speaking to about 200 House Democrats at their annual retreat at the Kingsmill Resort and Spa, dismissed Republican attacks against the massive spending in the stimulus.

"What do you think a stimulus is?" Obama asked incredulously. "It’s spending — that's the whole point! Seriously.”
Cato Institute Full-Page Newspaper Ad Signed by More Than 200 Economists:
Notwithstanding reports that all economists are now Keynesians and that we all support a big increase in the burden of government, we the undersigned do not believe that more government spending is a way to improve economic performance. More government spending by Hoover and Roosevelt did not pull the United States economy out of the Great Depression in the 1930s. More government spending did not solve Japan’s “lost decade” in the 1990s. As such, it is a triumph of hope over experience to believe that more government spending will help the U.S. today. To improve the economy, policymakers should focus on reforms that remove impediments to work, saving, investment and production. Lower tax rates and a reduction in the burden of government are the best ways of using fiscal policy to boost growth.
Washington Post:
In a 71 to 26 vote, the Senate approved a new incentive for car buyers, at an estimated cost of $11 billion over 10 years. According to Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), the amendment's sponsor, buyers could deduct the cost of sales tax for new cars purchased between last Nov. 12 and Dec. 31, 2009. Individuals with incomes of up to $125,000 would qualify.
President Barack Obama:
In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis -- the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can meet our enormous tests with half-steps and piecemeal measures; that we can ignore fundamental challenges such as energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.
Matt Welch:
But who had the theory that the federal government should be the elephant in the room of the mortgage business, pressure commercial banks to write mortgages for risky borrowers, even while applying less oversight to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than on actors in private sector? It certainly wasn't the free marketeers. Who thought credit default swaps and mortgage-backed securities should be left to expand like crazy without providing for a clearinghouse to at least measure their number and worth? It wasn't the house libertarian on the SEC. Who thought elevating Alan Greenspan to deity status while he maestroed the long era of loose credit was the capital thing to do? I know this will come as a surprise for those who think an Ayn Rand habit gets people a lifetime get-out-of-jail-free card on Planet Libertarian, but Greenspan's bubble-blowing policies were plenty controversial in these quarters before the dukey hit the fan.
Bob Shrum:
Just pass the infrastructure investment, [Utah Senator Robert Bennett] suggests, and postpone the rest until later (or never). He gives the impression that he never met a road he didn’t want to build, or a needy child he didn’t want to leave without nutrition or health care.
Representative Jim Cooper (D-TN):
I got in terrible trouble with our leadership because they don’t care what’s in the bill, they just want it passed and they want it to be unanimous. They don’t mind the partisan fighting cause that’s what they are used to. In fact, they’re really good at it. And they’re a little bit worried about what a post-partisan future might look like. If members actually had to read the bills and figure out whether they are any good or not. We’re just told how to vote. We’re treated like mushrooms most of the time.
Bob Shrum:
Right now, Republicans are out of ideas, offering little more than resentment and right wing talking points. Maybe [David] Frum can come up with a substantive agenda for them. Or maybe Republicans are just brain dead. In that case, the voters will surely put more of them out of their misery in 2010 and 2012.
International Herald Tribune:
Prime Minister Fran├žois Fillon on Monday rejected demands that the French government seek to stimulate consumer spending, rather than follow his plan to stimulate corporate and infrastructure investment, to lift France out of its economic slump.

"It would be irresponsible to chose another policy, which would increase our country's indebtedness without having more infrastructure and increased competitiveness in the end," Fillon said in a speech in Lyon.
Chris Matthews:
You know, when you buy a bag of candies, a bag of M&Ms, you know that everything in there is M&Ms. As an example, this stimulus package, nobody knows what‘s in there. There‘s a little of this, a little of that, little of this thing. We‘re finding out little things about Hollywood. We‘re finding out something about condoms.

Why didn‘t they put together a package with clear labels on say four or five categories of spending and tax cuts that everybody could sell, building bridges, broadband, education? Something where they could defend each portion of it. They didn‘t do that, did they?
President Barack Obama:
Let's not make the perfect the enemy of the essential.
Washington Post:
And the chamber ended the night by unanimously accepting an additional $6.5 billion for research at the National Institutes of Health, pushing the cost of the Senate legislation -- for now -- to more than $900 billion.
Los Angeles Times:
After a long day of behind-the-scenes negotiations, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) dropped plans to hold a final vote on the bill as the bipartisan group of centrists worked into the night to trim as much as $100 billion, an attempt to bring moderate Republicans on board without driving Democrats away.
Patterico's Pontifications:
$100 billion off a $937 billion package. If that sounds good to you, then you’re probably the type of person who is impressed when the car dealer says he’s willing to knock $500 off the sticker price.
Hugh Hewitt:
President Obama has been given an opportunity to spend a trillion dollars, and if he does and the economy stays flat or in even negative growth because he chose a partisan path at the opening of his allegedly bipartisan adminstration, that story line will never get rewritten.
Sources: Senators reach deal on stimulus; will vote Friday.

Worst. White House. Press Secretary. Ever.

Seriously, this is "change" not even Scott McClellan can believe in...

Clearly, President Obama should have taken my advice when filling this position.

"The One" Is Everywhere!

More at Diversity Lane...

The Flu and UFOs

I'm currently fighting the flu and a cough from hell, and James Lileks is the one who gets to see a strange light in the sky. How unfair is that?

Even Lileks doesn't seem to know what he actually say, but it did spur him to post this little gem from our collective past:

That's the opening sequence to Gerry Anderson's UFO, the series he did between those "Supermarionation" puppet shows in the 1960s, like Thunderbirds, and Space:1999.

Man, did I love UFO. I was six or seven when it aired here in America, and that was a dry time for television science fiction, at least where I lived. Those were the days when that wondrous new invention, something called cable, meant that not only could you actually receive 13 channels, eight of them might actually have something on them.

Until UFO, the only choice I'd had for TV sci-fi was between repeats of Star Trek (broadcast from some small station out of Wheeling, West Virginia) and repeats of all those old Irwin Allen shows, like Lost in Space. So UFO was a gift from the heavens to a young and geeky boy. At the time, it was Obama-level cool, at least to me.

Sure, the dogfights between the Earth interceptors and the UFOs were basically groups of three flying in a straight line toward each other. To really see a zero-gravity dogfight that didn't break the laws of physics, Id have to wait for Babylon 5. But at six or seven years of age, I didn't really care. The women on the secret moonbase wore these awesome silver boots and purple wigs, after all. And Ed Straker, the head of SHADO (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organistion) posed as the head of a movie studio. How cool is that?

But wait, it gets better. Because Ed Straker didn't just have a secret elevator from his studio office to his secret underground complex. His entire office was the secret elevator.

Yeah, it really was just that awesome...

Even though the series has been out on DVD for a while now, I've held off buying it. I'm deathly afraid that it won't be what I remember, that it just won't hold up when I see it as a 43-year-old man rather than a young kid. I've had a string of disappointments like that over the last two years. So I think I'll just stick with that YouTube clip of the opening sequence. At least for now.

I don't know what you saw, either, James. But if it means you'll dig up more lost gems from our mutual childhood, I hope you see more of them.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

100th Post

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Obligatory Stimulus Quote Post, Part III

President Barack Obama:

Now is the time to make the tough choices.
Russell Roberts:
Rather than spending money we don't have, I wish Obama would use his political capital to change the parts of our political system that are dysfunctional - our entitlement programs that are demographically bankrupt, our broken budget system, our Byzantine tax system, our financial system that is in disarray. These changes would be more likely to create the confidence and trust in the future that our economy needs to get healthy again rather than borrowing and spending. Borrowing and spending is how we got into this mess. Let's look in a different direction.
Howard L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian:
The goal of the New Deal was to get Americans back to work. But the New Deal didn't restore employment. In fact, there was even less work on average during the New Deal than before FDR took office. Total hours worked per adult, including government employees, were 18% below their 1929 level between 1930-32, but were 23% lower on average during the New Deal (1933-39). Private hours worked were even lower after FDR took office, averaging 27% below their 1929 level, compared to 18% lower between in 1930-32.
Johann Hari:
[I]n 1936, FDR wobbled. He listened to the people making the fiscally conservative case and slashed spending. Unemployment rose again - producing the spike in unemployment that people like Osborne now perversely cite as evidence that the New Deal didn't work. But the reality stands. When FDR spent, unemployment fell. When FDR cut back, unemployment rose.
Howard L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian:
Even comparing hours worked at the end of 1930s to those at the beginning of FDR's presidency doesn't paint a picture of recovery. Total hours worked per adult in 1939 remained about 21% below their 1929 level, compared to a decline of 27% in 1933. And it wasn't just work that remained scarce during the New Deal. Per capita consumption did not recover at all, remaining 25% below its trend level throughout the New Deal, and per-capita nonresidential investment averaged about 60% below trend. The Great Depression clearly continued long after FDR took office.
Johann Hari:
[P]erhaps the clincher is the answer to a bigger question: how did the Great Depression end? It didn't stop with the conservative suggestion: slashed spending, slashed debt and slashed government activity. It ended with precisely the opposite: the vast fiscal stimulus of the Second World War. The government sent debt soaring to its highest levels in US history (until today) in order to spend more than ever before. It set up the longest boom in US history.
Howard L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian:
The wartime economic boom reflected not only the enormous resource drain of military spending, but also the erosion of New Deal labor and industrial policies.
It wasn’t such a matter of a big “stimulus” that brought us out of the Depression, America also had the luxury of producing in an era where their European competition had effectively been destroyed or reallocated to other priorities (both during and after the war). During the war, people were still living on meager means due to rationing and whatnot. Much of the workforce was sent to the military and there just be couldn’t be the same level of unemployment given the production opportunity and (relative) lack of job competition.
N. Gregory Mankiw:
If you hire your neighbor for $100 to dig a hole in your backyard and then fill it up, and he hires you to do the same in his yard, the government statisticians report that things are improving. The economy has created two jobs, and the G.D.P. rises by $200. But it is unlikely that, having wasted all that time digging and filling, either of you is better off.
Megan McArdle:
How DARE I claim that stimulus spending didn't get us out of the Great Depression? GDP growth was really, really high under FDR!!!!
Wall Street Journal:
$2 billion for child-care subsidies.
Frank J. Tipler:
Macroeconomists should realize that the inability of their theories to make accurate predictions means that they do not know what they are talking about. We non-economists should realize this also, and realize that our leaders, who are being advised by macroeconomists, haven’t got a clue where they are leading us. Their actions may lead us out of the current recession, or they may lead us into a depression as bad as the Great Depression.
Megan McArdle:
We might as well move macroeconomic policy to the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives.
Robert Samuelson:
In its releases, the White House gushes superlatives. The stimulus program, says one fact sheet, "launches the most ambitious school modernization program on record," "computerizes every American's health record in five years" and "undertakes the largest weatherization" -- insulation -- "program in history." What a bonanza of good stuff!
The proposed increase in highway funding would raise spending to $40 billion, reflecting complaints from lawmakers in both parties that Obama's plan doesn't do enough to relieve a backlog of unfinished projects. Mass transit programs would get a $5 billion boost, while water projects would get $7 billion more.
Andrew Taylor:
Earlier in the day, the Senate turned back a proposal to add $25 billion for public works projects, a rejection engineered by Republicans critical of the bill's size and voicing skepticism of its ability to create jobs.
Senator James Inhofe (R.-OK):
We can't add to the size of this bill ... The amount is just inconceivable to most people.
Wall Street Journal:
$50 million for that great engine of job creation, the National Endowment for the Arts.
Jennifer Rubin:
There was, it seems, a good deal of miscalculation involved. The White House team bet Nancy Pelosi would come up with a bill that passed the smell test. They bet the Republicans, after a shellacking on Election Day, wouldn’t have the nerve to stand up to the President no matter what was in it. And they bet the public would support anything the President did. As it turned out, they were wrong on all three counts.
Mitchell Bard:
It all started with the stimulus bill in the House, where the Democrats caved to GOP demands and handed over a third of the legislation to tax cuts, even though economists of both parties agree that tax cuts are not as effective in stimulating consumer spending as government spending is.
New York Times:
There continues to be a debate among economists about how best to give a kick to the economy.
Yuval Levin:
When they manage to unify the entire House Republican caucus with David Brooks and Peggy Noonan, you know the Democrats have seriously botched something up. And boy, they really have. The more you look at the stimulus bill the clearer it becomes that it is the Congressional Democrats, not the opponents of this bill, who have failed to see that we are in a genuine and exceptional crisis. They’re working to use the moment as an opportunity to advance the same agenda they haven’t been able to move (with good reason) for a decade and more, and in the process are showing that agenda to be what we always knew it was: a massively wasteful, reckless, profligate, slovenly, higgledy-piggledy mess of interest group troughs and technocratic fantasies devoid of any economic thinking or sense of proportion.
Robert Samuelson:
What's also sacrificed are measures that, though lacking in long-term benefits, might help the economy now. A $7,500 tax credit for any home buyer in the next year (and not just first-time buyers, as is now in the bill) might reduce bloated housing inventories. Similarly, a temporary $1,500 credit for car or truck purchases might revive sales, down a third from 2007 levels.
Mitchell Bard:
Let's face it, the Republicans are talking one game, while playing another. They are pretending to be opposed to the stimulus bill only because of its makeup, as if there is a spending plan they would sign on to. And they're using this bogus argument as a way of trying to push through more tax cuts, the very failed policy that was rejected by voters in November. They are still trying to abide by the Bush administration rule of serving the wealthy at the expense of average Americans.
Star Parker:
Nowhere -- anytime or anyplace -- has economic growth and prosperity been created by government taking the money of its own citizens and spending it as it sees fit.
Frank Rich:
The current G.O.P. acts as if it — and we — have all the time in the world. It kept hoping in vain that the fast-waning Blago sideshow would somehow impale Obama or Rahm Emanuel. It has come perilously close to wishing aloud that a terrorist attack will materialize to discredit Obama’s reversals of Bush policy on torture, military tribunals and Gitmo. The party’s sole consistent ambition is to play petty politics to gum up the works.
Wall Street Journal:
$83 billion for the earned income credit for people who don't pay income tax.
Frank Rich:
The crisis is at least as grave as the one that confronted us — and, for a time, united us — after 9/11. Which is why the antics among Republicans on Capitol Hill seem so surreal. These are the same politicians who only yesterday smeared the patriotism of any dissenters from Bush’s “war on terror.” Where is their own patriotism now that economic terror is inflicting far more harm on their constituents than Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent W.M.D.?
Chicago Tribune:
No pork in stimulus plan, Joe Biden says.
The more I watch Joe Biden, the more I pray for the president’s health.
Senator John McCain (R.-AZ):
We need to have in our view more tax cuts and less spending. But we can negotiate.
Mitchell Bard:
McCain knows he lost in November, right? He knows he presented the American people with a vision that included continuing the Bush administration's economic policies, including more tax cuts, while Obama offered a different plan, including stimulus spending to jump-start the economy, and America chose Obama's plan, right? Of course he does. But he obviously doesn't care.
Globe and Mail:
The Canadian government expressed optimism Saturday that the U.S. might climb down from a so-called “Buy American” trade policy that several countries have warned could start a trade war.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs:
I'm going to say this for, like, the fourth time: The administration is reviewing that provision.
Jane Hamsher:
But Blue Dog commitment to "fiscal conservatism" is usually some phony exercises in "centrism" where they get concessions for K-Street lobbyists and let just enough Blue Dogs vote for passage so those allowed off leash can deliver self-righteous lectures in sonorous tones about "fiscal responsibility." It's time Cooper and the Blue Dogs demonstrate their commitment to "pay-as-you-go" principles and really pay or this bill, instead of just pretending to.
Megan McArdle:
There are a lot of people in my comments saying, apparently in all earnesty, "I really think the burden of proof is on the wackos who don't want the stimulus."

I am frankly flabbergasted. The proponents of the stimulus are proposing to spend nearly a trillion dollars. That's about $3,000 for every man, woman, and child in the United States. Do you have $3,000 lying around that could just be spent on any old thing without you really caring? You may call me crazy, but in the McArdle household, we view $3,000 as quite a tidy sum, the kind of money we want to make sure is wisely spent.
Representative Barney Frank (D.-MA):
I never saw a tax cut fix a bridge. I never saw a tax cut give us more public transportation.
Jacob Sullum:
That seems to be the theory underlying the "stimulus" package: We can't depend on consumers to spend money they don't have on stuff they don't need, so the government has to do it for them.
Noam Scheiber:
This afternoon, the CBO released its official scoring of the overall stimulus package. And, wouldn't you know, the agency says slightly north of 78 percent of it will pay out over the first two fiscal years.
Matthew Yglesias:
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.
Megan McArdle:
But in the context of stimulus, eighteen months is a long damn time. Eighteen months is, in fact, about how long it takes a stimulus to work through the system. If for no other reason, that ought to be a little worrisome for progressives because that means the stimulus won't have even 2/3 of its full effect until after midterms. It is simply not "even truer" that conservative intransigence is causing worse delays than the focus on spending the money on massive new projects. It's not even as true. It's not true at all. No matter how you assess the relative benefits of spending to tax cuts, tax cuts could be 95% out the door in April. So could many other kinds of rapid government spending--preventing fare cuts on transit systems, sure, but also repainting all the faded yellow lines on highways, or repairing park benches, redecorating government offices, etc.
Hugh Hewitt:
Finally, and perhaps less obvious to many conservatives, Senate Republicans ought to be pushing for a huge allocation of funds to sensitive habitat acquisitions. Over at, a search of "habitat" turns up about $2 billion in various places connected to habitat purchases or enhancements, but the opportunity to both serve the goal of environmental protection/conservation and pump priming is far larger than that amount suggests.

Hundreds of thousands of acres of private property in the south and the west are burdened with land-use restrictions as a result of the habitats, species, and wetlands they support. The environmental laws of the country unfairly transfer to these property owners the entire cost of the national goal of species/habitat protections. Many of these landowners (I have represented scores of them over the past 20 years) are entrepreneurial and eager to invest in and develop their property but find themselves locked into endless land-use battles with the federal and state governments and activists, battles which even when they are won drain resources and productivity.

A massive allocation of the looming appropriation to the acquisition of property highly-valued by environmental activists and federal regulators would instantly serve the goals of the activists while also pushing capital into the hands of the landowners for their reinvestment and use elsewhere. Condemnation should be prohibited, but if even 5% of the stimulus was directed towards a national program of arms-length transactions securing the most sought-after private property at fair market values, many goals would be served and the federal dollars would flow quickly back into the private economy with a minimum of red tape and bureaucracy. If, say, $40 billion were allocated to the effort with at least 50% allocated on a per capita basis among the states, President Obama would oversee the expansion of federal land holdings in the name of conservation to rival that of [Teddy Roosevelt's] while also lifting the extraordinary burden on private property owners forced to sit with their assets idled by these laws.
President Barack Obama:
What we can't do is let very modest differences get in the way [of swiftly enacting the stimulus legislation].
Wall Street Journal:
$400 million for global warming research.
Check back after the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to see how and where your tax dollars are spent.