Rick Perry may not be up to all this debatin' and articulatin':
A spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, whose candidacy has faltered after several poor debate appearances, said on Wednesday that he might not participate in some of the coming face-offs.
“We will look at each debate individually and then make a decision,” Mark Miner, the spokesman, told The Times’s Richard A. Oppel Jr.
I think if he skips the debates he may as well skip the rest of the nominating process, and that's not just me:
It’s not clear whether Mr. Perry could skip the debates without a steep political cost. By refusing to appear on a national stage now — after being criticized for his previous performances — he might open himself to charges that he is afraid to debate.
When running for governor last year, Mr. Perry managed to avoid debating his Democratic rival, Bill White, by linking his participation to the issue of Mr. White’s release of financial disclosure information. Mr. Perry refused to debate until Mr. White, the former mayor of Houston, released more information. Mr. White accused Mr. Perry of being afraid to debate.
I think an incumbent who is known to the voters is in a much better spot to work that ploy than one of many contenders for the Republican throne.
The "Why Not Both Sides?" Romney we dreaded in 2008 is back in 2011:
Campaigning in Ohio today, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney stopped by a Republican Party phone-bank making calls in support of Gov. John Kasich's government union reform referendum, but refused to endorse the actual referendum. CNN's Peter Hamby called the scene an "incredible moment in politics."
Incredible is an understatement. What bright light failed to anticipate a question about Romney's view on the referendum? And if Romney doesn't want to stand by his earlier views, why put him on the spot at that spot?
Romney was alredy challenging Republicans to hold their nose with one hand and vote for him with the other. Now he expects us to hold our nose, close our eyes and mark the ballot. Giminy.
LEADING FROM BEHIND: Now Romney supports the Republican side:
FAIRFAX, Va. — Mitt Romney on Wednesday reaffirmed his support for efforts to crack down on unions in Ohio, apologizing for causing “confusion” by appearing to waffle on the issue in that state a day earlier.
During a stop at a local Republican headquarters here, Mr. Romney said that his refusal to take a position on Tuesday was meant to be directed at other Ohio ballot initiatives that he was unfamiliar with.
But he insisted that he supported the ballot initiative that would ratify the legislation signed by Gov. John R. Kasich, a Republican.
“I’m sorry if I created any confusion in that regard,” Mr. Romney told a crush of reporters as he stood next to Virginia Republicans. “I fully support Governor Kasich’s, I think it’s called Question 2 in Ohio. Fully support that.”
On Tuesday in Ohio, after visiting a call center with volunteers urging passage of Mr. Kasich’s ballot measure, Mr. Romney said, “I’m not speaking about the particular ballot issues, those are up to the people of Ohio, but I certainly support the effort of the governor to rein in the scale of government.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Romney said he was speaking about other initiatives, including one on changes to Ohio’s health care system.
“I know there are other ballot initiatives out there in Ohio and I wasn’t taking a position on those,” he said, adding: “I am 110 percent behind Governor Kasich.”
Tone Deaf 2012 picks a lobbyist for the 1% to advise Obama's re-election effort:
President Barack Obama’s new senior campaign adviser is a longtime Wall Street lobbyist, and has the potential to damage the president’s aspirations to appeal to the protesters currently “occupying” New York City’s Zuccotti Park.
Obama’s new adviser, Broderick Johnson, has an extensive history of lobbying for big banks and corporations, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In 2007, he lobbied for JP Morgan Chase and in 2008 Johnson lobbied for Bank of America and Fannie Mae. From 2008 through 2010, he lobbied for Comcast and in 2011 he lobbied for Microsoft.
Rick Pery describes his tax reform charade in today's WSJ. I think this plan is as brain-dead as his candidacy, but let me pull this out for a special eye-roll:
America must also once and for all face up to entitlement reform. To preserve benefits for current and near-term Social Security beneficiaries, my plan permanently stops politicians from raiding the program's trust fund. Congressional IOUs are no substitute for workers' Social Security payments. We should use the federal Highway Trust Fund as a model for protecting the integrity of a pay-as-you-go system.
Huh? As best I can tell, the Highway Trust funds (my personal fave is the 'Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund', aka the LUST Trust Fund, and don't leave home without it) are not segragated funds invested separately in non-US Treasury accounts; they seem to be special securities created by the Treasury, which makes them very similar to the Social Security Trust Fund investments.
As to "raiding" the Highway Trust funds, well, the highway funds collect gasoline and other dedicated taxes. If Congress authorizes a lesser amount of spending on related highway projects, then the excess, although notionally credited to the Highway Trust funds, will be available for raiding in the same way that excess Social Security receipts were.
And on that question of Social Security, Perry is locking the barn door a bit too late - Social Security won't be running notable operating surpluses any time soon, so Congress will be allocating money from general revenue to fund it, not raiding it. This is from the 2011 Trustees report summary:
Social Security expenditures exceeded the program’s non-interest income in 2010 for the first time since 1983. The $49 billion deficit last year (excluding interest income) and $46 billion projected deficit in 2011 are in large part due to the weakened economy and to downward income adjustments that correct for excess payroll tax revenue credited to the trust funds in earlier years. This deficit is expected to shrink to about $20 billion for years 2012-2014 as the economy strengthens. After 2014, cash deficits are expected to grow rapidly as the number of beneficiaries continues to grow at a substantially faster rate than the number of covered workers. Through 2022, the annual cash deficits will be made up by redeeming trust fund assets from the General Fund of the Treasury. Because these redemptions will be less than interest earnings, trust fund balances will continue to grow. After 2022, trust fund assets will be redeemed in amounts that exceed interest earnings until trust fund reserves are exhausted in 2036, one year earlier than was projected last year. Thereafter, tax income would be sufficient to pay only about three-quarters of scheduled benefits through 2085.
Watching Perry explain this might be fun though, since he has not shown much of a grasp of detail.
The Times reports unexpected (unexpected!) hold-ups in the grand resolution of the Euro-debacle:
European Finance Ministers Call Off Pre-Summit Meeting
By STEPHEN CASTLE
BRUSSELS — A meeting of European Union finance ministers that was to precede the second gathering in a week of European leaders was abruptly canceled on Tuesday, raising questions about prospects for a comprehensive deal to resolve Europe’s debt crisis.
In an emailed statement, Kacper Chmielewski, a spokesman for the Polish government, which holds the bloc’s rotating presidency, said the finance ministers’ meeting, set for Wednesday, had been called off.
The meeting of E.U. leaders will still take place, however, and “work on the comprehensive package of measures to curb the sovereign debt crisis” will continue there, the statement said.
“Further work at the level of ministers of finance will be conducted based on the outcome” of the summit meeting, it said. “The aim is to adopt all necessary elements and details concerning the package, as promptly as possible.”
The big picture people will continue to develop a mission statement and a statement of shared values; the detail guys (and gals!) will wait in suspense.
I would be surprised if anyone was surprised. Market reaction is muted, and neither stocks nor the Euro are giving up much of their recent gains. The S&P 500 is down about 14 and the Euro is off about 0.4%.
The Times stays on-message while boosting Obama's next risky jobs scheme:
Jobs Plan Stalled, Obama to Try New Economic Drive
By JACKIE CALMES
WASHINGTON — With his jobs plan stymied in Congress by Republican opposition, President Obama on Monday will begin a series of executive-branch actions to confront housing, education and other economic problems over the coming months, heralded by a new mantra: “We can’t wait” for lawmakers to act.
According to an administration official, Mr. Obama will kick off his new offensive in Las Vegas, ground zero of the housing bust, by promoting new rules for federally guaranteed mortgages so that more homeowners, those with little or no equity in their homes, can refinance and avert foreclosure.
And Wednesday in Denver, the official said, Mr. Obama will announce policy changes to ease college graduates’ repayment of federal loans, seeking to alleviate the financial concerns of students considering college at a time when states are raising tuition.
So what has been Obama's problem so far? My emphasis:
The “We can’t wait” campaign is a new phase in Mr. Obama’s so-far unsuccessful effort — punctuated until now by his cries of “Pass this bill!” on the stump — to pressure Republicans to support the job creation package he proposed after Labor Day. It comes after unanimous votes by Senate Republicans in the past week to block the plan; House Republican leaders have refused to put the measure to a vote.
Polls show overwhelming support for pieces of the $447 billion package, which includes expanded tax cuts for workers and employers, and spending for infrastructure projects and for state aid to keep teachers and emergency responders at work. But Republicans oppose provisions in Mr. Obama’s plan that would offset the costs with higher taxes on the wealthy.
Should the bill ultimately fail, Democrats believe they at least have the better political argument, and they vow to exploit what they call the Republicans’ obstruction in the 2012 campaign.
Those obstructionist Republicans! But back in reality, the bills lost to a bipartisan group of Republicans and Democrats. OK, not many Democrats, but still. Obama can't even hold his own party together, but he wants to blame Republicans and the Times wants to help.
GaryTaubes is the author of "Good Calories, Bad Calories" and "Why We Get Fat And What To Do About It". In those books (as in this 2002 NY Times article which eventually was turned into the two books) Mr. Taubes linked excessive consumption of sugar end refined carbohydrates to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. In 2011 he added an article linking sugar to cancer.
Yet it turns out that Mr. Taubes has been underestimating the evils of sugar. Via Glenn we see a researcher linking autism to excessive carbohydrate consumption; other researchers are a step away from demonstrating a link to Alzheimers.
That is a a heck of a list of health hazards associated with giving your kid a soda pop (or having one yourself).
I stand by this earlier Bold Prediction: sugar is going the way of cigarettes.
Here’s a look at overall private sector employment during the Obama years:
The conservative argument about this is that the rebound hasn’t been sharper because of the over-reaching state. But as you can see we’ve actually had a sharp contraction in the number of people working for the government. This has been especially notable at the local level, where we’ve had large losses of teachers:
But let's cut to the first commenter, Peter Schaeffer:
This is cynical BS. MattY is cherry picking the data to produce a conclusion he finds expedient. In real life the fall in private sector jobs has been considerably greater than public sector jobs. Moreover, public sector jobs grew much faster in the run up to the crash.
A few more pictures will tell that story. Here is private sector employment from January 2000:
Private employment peaked at the start of the recession (Concidence? I think not!) with roughly half the job losses occuring before Obama took office; the employment figure eventually plunged to a level not seen since the 90's and has since climbed back to the level of early 2004. But what about the public sector (excluding the Federal government)?
State and local government had more employees at the end of the recession than they did at the start (as was also true in the 2001 recession), so all of the local government job losses occured under Obama; the decline so far has been to a level seen in 2005.
I understand that Democrats want to throw a bone to their public sector union supporters, but the real job problem is in the private sector.
Prince Albert Can! Albert Pujols joins Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson as the only guys to hit three home runs in a World Series game.
Obama claims fulfillment of a campaign promise by bringing almost all US troops home from Iraq. Some parts of the Administration (starting with Defense) have been trying hard to avoid this outcome, but, per Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy:
"From the beginning, the talks unfolded in a way where they largely driven by domestic political concerns, both in Washington and Baghdad. Both sides let politics drive the process, rather than security concerns," said Sulivan [Marisa Cochrane Sullivan, managing director at the Institute for the Study of War].
I bet that, both sides having made whatever their point was, we will be sending troops back to Iraq next winter. I do love this Administration optimism:
Deputy National Security Advisors Denis McDonough and Tony Blinken said in a White House briefing that this was always the plan.
"What we were looking for was an Iraq that was secure, stable, and self reliant, and that's what we got here, so there's no question that was a success," said McDonough, who traveled to Iraq last week.
It's a success! All credit to Biden and Obama, natch. Clearly this is one of the "great achievements of this Administration".
The Washington Examiner ponders the brain-lock induced by the execution of Qadaffi:
Does Killing A Dictator Make An Illegal War Legal?
It's actually pretty embarrassing.
Pictured here is a tweet from liberal blogger Markos, of the Daily Kos. It reads: "GOPers who criticized Obama's approach in Libya ... wrong again."
The implication: If you objected to the President for illegally entering a war where vital U.S. interests were not at stake, you were wrong, because we killed Gadafhi. More briefly: Might makes right.
The liberal Center for American Progress made the same unliberal argument in August when Gadhafi lost control of the country, asking on twitter: "Does John Boehner still believe U.S. military operations in Libya are illegal?"
Baffling! Not. But let me answer a question with a question, and I will type slowly so our firned on the left can follow along:
The US got valuable intelligence from Khalid Shekh Mohammed after waterboarding him. Did that make waterboarding him legal?
Let's flash back to March of 2011 when Barry's Excellent Adventure in Libya began. I would say that the gist of the objections was that we had no plan to force a resolution of events, we had no special US interest in ousting Qadaffi now (rather than at any other time in his long reign), and we had no real sense of what the enduing government would look like (It was only later that we learned that Obama planned to mock the War Powers Act).
Here is Ross Douthat on March 16, 2011:
...the lesson of Iraq isn’t that we can’t execute a tactically-successful military intervention. It’s that even the greatest power in the world needs to think long and hard about what happens after the intervention. And National Review’s preferred course promises a very, very long “after” for America in Libya.
Seven months later, Obama's plan to lead from behind, minimize US involvement, and maximize Obama's self-congratulations has borne some fruit. Still open, of course, is the vital question of the nature of the succesor regime.
Herman Cain unleashes the fog machine on the question of whether he is pro-choice or pro-life. One might have expected a candidate for the Republican nomination to have anticipated this question.
Well - if Cain intends to seek the nomination as a pro-choice Republican, good luck to him. I guess this confusion will help the next Anybody But Romney candidate in line, presumably Perry.
It's the politics of fear when it comes from the right; Biden, I guess, represents calm civility with his message that Republicans must raise taxes or people will be raped and killed. Here is the Vice President in Flint Michigan promoting the latest iteration of Stimulus Now, Stimulus Tomorrow, Stimulus Forever (Followed by Deficit Reduction, eventually):
"In 2008, when Flint had 265 sworn officers on their police force, there were 35 murders and 91 rapes in this city," Biden said. "In 2010, when Flint had only 144 police officers, the murder rate climbed to 65 and rapes--just to pick two categories--climbed to 229. In 2011, you now only have 125 shields. God only knows what the numbers will be this year for Flint if we don't rectify it."
First, I hope the Veep has berated the FBI for their miserable data base management - per the Uniform Crime Reports and Crime in the US data base (Table 8 - 2008, 2010), the murder and rape figures for Flint were somewhat different:
Murder: 2008 FBI 32; Biden 35 2010 FBI: 53; Biden 65
Rape: 2008 FBI 103; Biden 91 2010 FBI: 92; Biden 229
Somebody better call 911 and alert the FBI to this 2010 crime wave in Flint. Apparently a huge number of rapes, not to mention a few murders, are being reported to the Vice President's office without making it into the Federal database.
Fox News was all over this on Oct. 12:
The rise in violent crimes like murder and rape, however, was not as drastic as Biden suggested, according to FBI statistics.
The FBI reported 32 cases of murder and non-negligent manslaughter and 103 cases of forcible rape in 2008. That's similar to what the Flint Police Department reported -- which were the exact numbers Biden cited Wednesday.
But the FBI reported the number of murders at 53 in 2010, with the number of forcible rapes actually dropping to 92. According to the FBI, the Flint "metropolitan statistical area" -- which includes the surrounding county as well as the city -- recorded 225 forcible rapes in 2010. However, that would also mark a decrease from the 239 recorded in the broader area in 2008.
A representative from Biden's office said the 229 number came from the Flint Police Department.
Menwhile, back in Flint the town mayor tried to prevent additional police and fire layoffs in 2011 by reducing their pay; the union was balky. So this stimulus is partly about saving good union jobs for the Democrats.
MAX NOSE: Genn Kessler of the WaPo gives Biden's claim Four Pinocchios.
It's a jungle out there:
ZANESVILLE, Ohio – Dozens of animals escaped from a wild-animal preserve that houses bears, big cats and other beasts, and the owner later was found dead there, said police, who shot several of the animals and urged nearby residents to stay indoors.
The fences had been left unsecured Tuesday at the Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville, in east-central Ohio, and the animals' cages were open, police said. They wouldn't say what animals escaped but said the preserve had lions, tigers, cheetahs, wolves, giraffes, camels and bears. They said bears and wolves were among 25 escaped animals that had been shot and killed and there were multiple sightings of exotic animals along a nearby highway.
"These are wild animals that you would see on TV in Africa," Sheriff Matt Lutz warned at a press conference.
In an interview with Jake Tapper Obama plays tough guy on Fast and Furious:
As the Justice Department investigates how U.S. guns were allowed to flow illicitly into Mexico under the watchful eyes of federal agents, President Obama said today in an exclusive interview with ABC News that “people who have screwed up will be held accountable.”
“Our overarching goal consistently has been to say we’ve got a responsibility not only to stop drugs from flowing north, we’ve also got a responsibility to make sure we are not helping to either arm or finance these drug cartels in Mexico,” Obama said in the interview with ABC News senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper that will air on “Nightline.”
“It’s very upsetting to me to think that somebody showed such bad judgment that they would allow something like that to happen,” he said. “And we will find out who and what happened in this situation and make sure it gets corrected.”
ABC News does not inspire confidence that they are the team to press a tough investigative journalistic effort:
"Several"?!? They provide a link to an ABC News story saying this:
The operation took a tragic toll in December 2010, when two weapons found on the scene where border patrol agent Brian Terry was murdered were linked to the ATF program. Other weapons from the program have been linked to a slew of crimes in Arizona and Mexico.
So whatwas once "a slew" has become "several". Per CBS News, Fast and Furious guns have been recovered at eleven violent crime scenes in the US (as of Aug 17) and eight in Mexico (as of a Sept 14, according to an official but not comprehensive review). The original CBS News story on Fast and Furious claimed that sources said the guns were involved in "dozens" of crimes in Mexico.
I would say that "a slew" is more accurate than "several". Of course, we are all curious about just how large a number is encompassed by "several", since that is how many weeks elapsed between his first awareness of the F&F controversy and his Senate testimony, per our time-traveling Attorney General.
And did Jake Tapper press Obama on whether it really made sense to have the Justice Department investigate itself? I can't tell from this excerpt.
This was a one question exchange at the end of the interview:
Tapper: Just to change the subject from the economy, the "Fast and Furious" controversy. Aside from some of the more wild charges out there, this is a big scandal. The Justice Department, the ATF was moving guns and some of them were tied to crime scenes. what was your response when you first heard about it?
Obama: Well I heard about it from the news reports. This is not something we were aware of in the White House and the Attorney General it turns out wasn't aware of either. Obviously Eric Holder has launched a full investigation of this, it is not acceptable for us to allow guns to go into Mexico. Our whole goal has been to interdict aggressively in the flow of weapons and cash flowing south into Mexico because the Mexican president, President Calderon, has done a heroic job of trying to take on these transnational drug cartels. So this investigation will be complete, people who have screwed up will be held accountable but our overarching goal consistently has been to say we've got a responsibility not only to stop drugs from flowing north, we've also got a responsibility to make sure we are not helping to either arm or finance these drug cartels in Mexico. So it's very upsetting to me to think that somebody showed such bad judgment that they would allow something like that to happen and we will find out who and what happened in this situation and make sure it gets corrected.
With a nod to Michele Bachmann, what happens in Vegas won't stay in Vegas.
AHHHH! Ms. Bachman is proving that it is impossible to discuss a Value Added Tax without the hapless audience wanting to kill either themselves or the speaker.
ROMNEYCARE: Epic brawl between Santorum and Romney. Romney is not offering a defense that ought to be helpful (if it is correct) - Massachusetts already had a tax meant to raise revenue to cover health costs for the uninsured. RomneyCare re-directed this revenue stream (and some Federal funds) for its funding, without raising taxes. That wouldn't work at the national level.
And here is the Fact Check on Romney's editing of his book:
HARDCOVER: "We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country, and it can be done without letting government take over health care."
PAPERBACK: "And it was done without government taking over health care."
OK, NOW IT IS A FIGHT NIGHT: Perry and Romney get as nasty as I have ever seen in a debate format, and I know it will be a YouTube instant classic. Here is some background on Romney's employment of illegal aliens.
In previous debates Perry has started quiclky and then run out of steam and lost focus. Tonight, as a helpful timesaver for viewers at home, he seems to have gone directly to his unfocused modality.
TARP: Santorum says Perry backed TARP; Perry denies. This PolitiFact FactCheck scores that as half true:
This much is certain: On the morning of Oct. 1, 2008, the Republican Governors Association and Democratic Governors Association publicized a three-paragraph letter signed by their respective chairmen, Perry and Manchin, stating: "We strongly urge Congress to leave partisanship at the door and pass an economic recovery package ... If Congress does not act soon, the situation will grow appreciably worse."
The letter doesn’t explicitly endorse the plan then before the Senate. But no other plan was in play that day amid national fears of an economic collapse. And The Associated Press cast the governors' letter as part of a frantic national push for the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street sought by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and President George W. Bush.
Later the same day, Perry issued a contradictory-sounding second statement, partly headlined: "On Protecting Taxpayers."
"In a free market economy," Perry said, "government should not be in the business of using taxpayer dollars to bail out corporate America."
Asked to clarify at the time what Perry wanted the Senate to do, his spokeswoman, Allison Castle, demurred. "The senators have to make their own decisions," Castle said.
CUTTING DEFENSE: Ron Paul wonders why we have US troops based in Korea. A far better example of expensive and unnecessary foreign basing would be Germany; deterring Poland is less important than deterring North Korea.
So what is my point, that Ron Paul is a kook?
FINAL TALLY: I had to duck out for the last half hour, but on my scorecard Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney exceeded expectations. Herman Cain got less time than I thought he would, and was OK. Rick Perry was weak, Ron Paul was Ron Paul, and I won't survive another question to Michele Bachmann about the VAT. Honestly, I would rather listen to an explanation of the paid-up insurance feature of my whole life policy.
AROUND THE WEB: Prof. Wild Bill Jacobson thought Perry exceeded his low expectations.
The Times describes the effort in Massachusetts to rein in their spiraling health care costs. The gist is to move away from a fee-for-service model and force service providers to act like insurers by accepting a flat fee for patients and then managing their care:
Although important details remain to be negotiated, the legislative leaders and Gov. Deval Patrick, all Democrats, are working toward a plan that would encourage flat “global payments” to networks of providers for keeping patients well, replacing the fee-for-service system that creates incentives for excessive care by paying for each visit and procedure.
As a matter of economics, this at least aligns the incentives of the people writing the checks with the people ordering the treatments. I think most folks agree that having a doctor order treatments subject to a patient's approval while a hapless insurer simply nods and pays the bills is not a system where either the doctor or the patient feels a great deal of pressure to hold down costs.
Now, Republicans calling for market solutions to the health care puzzle argue that empowered consumers will fill this cost-control role if they pay out-of-pocket by way of medical savings accounts. Yet one wonders - these can be very complicated decisions often requiring expert knowledge,and made under trying circumstances.
On the other hand, having a system where an insurance company, relying on its access to expertise and a vast library of patient outcomes, makes the medical decisions seems to be politically unacceptable (faceless insurance bureaucrats greedily coming between a patient and their doctor - ahhh! Well, unless it is a state-run plan, in which case the faceless bureaucrats are government employees and its all good, at least in LibWorld. I digress...)
So if no one wants insurance companies applying their expertise to opine on appropriate courses of treatment then either the patient or the doctor ought to be put in charge of the patient's health care budget. But if, as in Massachusetts, the doctor is put in charge, then the doctor is being put in the role of the insurance company, managing a pool of patients and hoping that on average, their health issues and treatment costs allow the medical practice to make a profit. I don't know how that could work with a small practice, where a couple of hard-luck patients could wipe out a doctor's college fund for his kids. My guess is that doctors will affiliate into larger groups to share risk and patients. Here is a clue on that point:
Massachusetts has had a model for global payments since 2009, when Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the state’s biggest health insurer, began experimenting with an “alternative quality contract” that pays groups of doctors and hospitals a set fee to work as a team in caring for patients. The plans cover about 613,000 people, or roughly two-thirds of Blue Cross members in health maintenance organizations, but none of those in preferred provider organizations.
IIRC, HMOs were an initial attempt to achieve something like this global payment concept.
Meanwhile, what does this mean for Romney? Well, maybe spiraling costs make it easier for him to repudiate RomneyCare. Maybe! Romney's vision for health care reform post ObamaCare is at his website.
Good news on the Tuesday night debate:
Seven candidates are scheduled to face off in Las Vegas at 8 p.m. Eastern for the debate on CNN. (Jon M. Huntsman Jr. is boycotting the 90-minute event to protest Nevada’s selection of Jan. 14 for their presidential caucus.)
How can we get him to boycott the rest of this campaign?
The mandate to develop an “actuarially-sound premium” gave the Obama administration a lever with which they could remove CLASS from the final bill. On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it was killing the program.
...The Obama administration did the right thing here, and they did it at high political cost. Killing the CLASS Act was always going to open them to a flood of criticism. They could have fudged the numbers. They could have tried to delay the inevitable. They didn’t. Instead, they proved themselves committed to a financially sound health-reform plan.
Which is why Obama is Ezra's hero. Unfortunately, doing "the right thing" does not seem to actually include repealing the CLASS act. HHS Secretary Sebelius has announced that she can't implement the plan and make the numbers work, but her boss is opposed to repealing it. And it makes sense to kill it and keep it alive because... I have no idea, but I know Ezra will be back with an explanation as soon as someone comes up with one that doesn't sound as if it were written for Jon Stewart. My guess is that "fiscal responsibility" will be a key theme, as will blaming Bush. Or maybe Sarah Palin.
Meanwhile, it almost looks as if Team Obama, or some faction therein, is trying to delay the inevitable. Baffling.
President Obama and the Democratic leadership are making a critical error in embracing the Occupy Wall Street movement—and it may cost them the 2012 election.
Yet the Occupy Wall Street movement reflects values that are dangerously out of touch with the broad mass of the American people—and particularly with swing voters who are largely independent and have been trending away from the president since the debate over health-care reform.
...Our research shows clearly that the movement doesn't represent unemployed America and is not ideologically diverse. Rather, it comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence. Half (52%) have participated in a political movement before, virtually all (98%) say they would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals, and nearly one-third (31%) would support violence to advance their agenda.
Well, we all saw this coming. But it is not as if the Democrats can maintain a stretegic distance from this crowd. A moth is to flame as a Democrat is to a youthful protestor. Occupy Wall Street is inducing one huge 60's flashback amongst the left even (perhaps especially) for people like Barack Obama who had their 60's in the 80's. On that side of the aisle everyone wants to party like its 1969.
CNN Poll: Two-thirds of Republicans say minds are not made up
I would not have expected our liberal media to report that two-thirds of Republicans have a mind.
MORE FUN WITH HEADLINES:
Record-High 50% of Americans Favor Legalizing Marijuana Use
C'mon, how high were they?
THE HITS KEEP COMING...
Well, how high were they? High enough to think Obama actually has policies, I guess.
The CEI filed an FOIA to break the OSTP cloud-cover. Seriously:
CEI has learned of a UN plan recently put in place to hide official correspondence on non-governmental accounts, which correspondence a federal inspector general has already confirmed are subject to FOIA. This “cloud” serves as a dead-drop of sorts for discussions by U.S. government employees over the next report being produced by the scandal-plagued IPCC, which is funded with millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars.
This has allegedly been aided and abetted by the OSTP, which is the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy – John Holdren is director (science czar).
CEI is the Competitive Enterprise Institute, natch. And the Freedom of Information Act is known to all and sundry, I have no doubt.
So, the most transparent Administration ever (ever!) may be stashing awkward emails on climate science off in the non-profit sector. Clever. Illegal, probably, but clever.
Herman Cain did well on Meet The Press, says Prof. Althouse. The Hill tells us that Herman Cain "struggled" to defend his tax plan; Powerline emphasizes that David Gregory struggled to grasp the distinction between state taxes and sales taxes. Hmm - David Gregory may be a buffoon, but he is surely better informed and more intelligent than many of the voters Mr. Cain needs to persuade.
HERE WE GO AGAIN: Huckabee in 2008, Cain now - geez, Republicans are developing a pattern of falling in love with underqualified charismatic fresh faces. When did we become Democrats?
Frank Bruni of the Times wonders why Jon Huntsman failed to find any traction in the Republican nominating process:
For starters he proves the limits of the mainstream news media’s sway. He got a dazzling sunburst of attention at the outset, including a lengthy profile in this newspaper’s Sunday Magazine, and the pundits salivated and swooned. On the MSNBC news show “Morning Joe,” Mark Halperin told his rapt tablemates that he was “blown away” by an early Huntsman swing through New Hampshire. The messiah had come, and voters were instructed to worship him.
Conservatives just aren't reliably swayed by endorsements from the liberal media, even though it worked for war hero McCain. Go figure.
Mr. Bruni lauds Hunstman's civility:
He has other problems, anyway. Primary candidates don’t just campaign against one another. They audition to campaign against the other party’s nominee. And from his announcement speech forward, Huntsman has demonstrated a palpable hesitation to take on President Obama, who gave him his last job, as ambassador to China.
“I don’t think you need to run down someone’s reputation in order to run for the office of president,” Huntsman said in that speech, adding: “I respect the president of the United States.” I wish we lived in a country where that sort of gentility and civility was the political norm. We don’t, and we haven’t for quite some time. That’s something else Huntsman’s failure has proved.
Hunstman's shtick as the Republican who hated conservatives can't end soon enough.
The NY Times editors bleat about tax injustice and the need for a Buffett Rule, citing this recent Congressional Research Service study (link). They ignore this study documenting tha tmost "millionaires" (by their definition) are just passing through.
We Thought They Wanted to Be Like Buffett
When Warren Buffett pointed out that the American tax system was so egregiously rigged that he paid a smaller share of his income in taxes than his secretary, very few of his peers chimed in. It was so quiet that one might have thought Mr. Buffett’s case was a fluke. It wasn’t.
The Congressional Research Service found that 200,000 millionaires — almost two-thirds of taxpayers with taxable income above $1 million — paid a lower tax rate (combining income and payroll taxes) than the typical taxpayer making less than $100,000.
This is mostly because the rich make a huge chunk of their income from stocks and other investments, in the form of capital gains and dividends. Those are not subject to payroll taxes and are taxed at 15 percent, lower than the 25 percent marginal rate paid by a family earning wages of $100,000 a year.
This approach relies on a very broad definition of "millionaire", namely, anyone earning more than a million dollars in a particular year (the CRS study looked at 2006). The problem, obvious to anyone not parroting Administration talking points, is that many "millionaires" report one year of high income due to some sort of predictable lifetime event. For example, a retiring executive cashing in ten years worth of accumulated stock options might easily have one-time capital gains in excess of $1 million; or, back in 2006, people could still imagine exceeding the $250,000 exclusion on the sale of a home. In either case, this CRS study will depict them as a millionaire relying on the favorable capital gains rate.
Per this study, which looked at tax returns from 1999 to 2007, roughly 50% of "millionaires" reported income in excess of $1 million just once in that nine year period. Look, that is still a lot of money, but it is not Warren Buffett money nor are we talking about a lifestyle involving private jets, as Obama always does.
Unlike the Times editors I am not so sure that a person who just cashed out and retired and is looking down a twenty or thirty year road of uncertain health care costs with a couple of million in the bank and kids and grand-kids to think about is really representative of what the Times calls the "undertaxed" rich.
LIKE TWO PAPERS IN ONE: By eerie concidence, NY Times reporter Jane Gross has a column today titled "How Medicare Fails the Elderly" making the point that the elderly can spend a lot of money in a hurry on uninsured health care costs:
In the case of my mother, who died at 88 in 2003, room and board in various assisted living communities, at $2,000 to $3,500 a month for seven years, was not paid for by Medicare. Yet neurosurgery, which I later learned was not expected to be effective in her case, was fully reimbursed, along with two weeks of in-patient care. Her stay of two years at a nursing home, at $14,000 a month (yes, $14,000) was also not paid for by Medicare. Nor were the additional home health aides she needed because of staffing issues. Or the electric wheelchair after strokes had paralyzed all but the finger that operated the joy stick. Or the gizmo with voice commands so she could tell the staff what she needed after her speech was gone.
She paid for the room. My brother and I paid for the private aides and bought her the chair and the “talking board.” What would her life have been like without the skilled care she required and the ability to get around her floor and communicate her needs? I shudder to think. But none of this was Medicare’s responsibility.
Yet Medicare would pay for “heroic” care for a woman who was dying of old age, not a disease that could be treated: Diagnostic tests. All manner of surgery. Expensive medications. Trips to the emergency room or the hospital — had she not refused all of them, in the last year of her life. So, in less than a decade, by my low-ball estimate, my mother spent $500,000 of her own money and uncalculated sums from her two children before winding up what she considered, with shame, “a welfare queen.”
Depending on whether her mother collected that $500,000 in savings from a one-time event, she may have been a undertaxed millionaire.
Props to Nolan Ryan, George Bush and Herman Cain for sending the Texas Rangers to the World Series. Herman Cain, you ask? I presume his 9-9-9 plan inspired the Rangers to tack up nine runs in the third inning (three nines, get it?). You can't buy that kind of advertising.
And since my initial prediction of Phillies over the Yanks has been washed out, let me pick Texas over whichever beer outlet represents the lesser league.
Herman Cain needs to remember he is running for President, not First Talk Show Host:
Cain Proposes Electrified Border FenceBy EDWARD WYATT
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said Saturday that part of his immigration policy would be to build an electrified fence on the country’s border with Mexico that could kill people trying to enter the country illegally.
The remarks, which came at two campaign rallies in Tennessee as part of a barnstorming bus tour across the state, drew loud cheers from crowds of several hundred people at each rally. At the second stop, in Harriman, Tenn., Mr. Cain added that he also would consider using military troops “with real guns and real bullets” on the border to stop illegal immigration.
[Big Skip and...]
Speaking to a rally sponsored by the Roane County Tea Party, Mr. Cain said that part of his plan would be to “secure the border for real” with a fence.
“It’s going to be 20 feet high. It’s going to have barbed wire on the top. It’s going to be electrified. And there’s going to be a sign on the other side saying, ‘It will kill you — Warning.’” At an earlier rally, on the campus of Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, Tenn., he added that the sign would be written “in English and in Spanish.”
In defense of Mr. Cain let me take a moment to deplore our liberal media. Mr. Cain did not say the fence would be fatal; he said the signs would say it would be fatal. Maybe a slight shock to the scared and suggestible would be sufficient...
Well. Mr. Cain needs to Presidential-up. If we wanted to nominate a kook or a crank, we would get behind Ron Paul.
THEN AGAIN... How much Green support will Cain gather if he powers his electric fence with solar and wind?
GREAT MINDS RUN IN THE SAME CHANNEL; FOOLS THINK ALIKE: Doug Powers of Michelle Malkin's site says that:
Before we assume that Herman Cain’s suggestion will cause Democrats or even select Republicans to throw even more scorn in his direction, I’d suggest this: Cain could win over many of them simply by saying that in his border plan, the fence would be electrified with power provided by solar panels the government purchased from stimulus-backed green energy companies.
That makes me a select Republican! But who selected me, David Brooks? Troubling. But Doug and I are both thinking Green, so it's all good.
KIDDING! Herman Cain plays the "JK" card with David Gregory and explains that this was part of his program to enhance America's sense of humor. Har de har. Or, they laughed when he said he wanted to try his hand at comedy, but they're not laughing now...
I love this headline:
Fix it! Eight days! Bada bing bada boom!
That was easy. Maybe Barry can fix Afghanistan the same way. Or Solyndra. Or anything.
I was betrayed by my uncertain ISP this morning. Ooops!
Cnn's John King is getting attetion with this story about our faster-than light Attorney General:
Obama Spoke About "Fast & Furious" Before Holder Claimed He Knew
CNN's John King plays Holder's testimony to Congress on MAY 3, 2011, where he said he had only just recently heard about the Fast & Furious gunrunning program. "I'm not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks," Attorney General Eric Holder said.
Then CNN compares Holder's testimony to what President Obama said in MARCH to CNN Espanol about the operation. "I heard on the news about this story that -- Fast and Furious, where allegedly guns were being run into Mexico, and ATF knew about it, but didn't apprehend those who had sent it." Transcript of the segment that aired on "John King USA" below:
KING: He [Holder] says over the last few weeks.
That is on May 3, 2011. Listen to this interview the president of the United States, not the attorney general, the president of the United States, had with CNN Espanol back in March.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There have been problems, you know. I heard on the news about this story that -- Fast and Furious, where allegedly guns were being run into Mexico, and ATF knew about it, but didn't apprehend those who had sent it.
Eric Holder has -- the attorney general has been very clear that he knew nothing about this. We had assigned an I.G., inspector general, to investigate it. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: It begs the question, how did the president know about this in March, and how did the president know the attorney general knew nothing about this in march, when the attorney general says in May he just learned about it a couple weeks ago?
Some thoughts: first, let's not place John King in the Journalist Hall of Fame just yet. He is following up on some questions raised by Ed Henry of Fox News at an Oct. 5 press briefing, as described by CNS News:
Q So to clear up any confusion, when was the first time the President --
MR. CARNEY: Again, I --
Q No, no, not the Attorney General. When was the first time the President heard about this program?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as he said in public, in a press conference, he heard about it when he read about it. And that was sometime earlier this year. I think the press conference was in El Salvador when he was on that trip, and he referenced having heard about it recently. I don’t have a specific day.
Jay Carney got back to CNS News with the details:
Later, however, Carney clarified to CNSNews.com that the president had explained how he learned about Fast and Furious not at the press conference in El Salvador but in an interview with CNN Espanol that had aired that same day, March 22.
Note the date. Obama also discussed "Fast and Furious" with Univision's Jorge Ramos on March 23, as reported by CBS News.
So somehow, Obama knew about the controversy around "Fast and Furious" in late March, knew the inspector general had been asked to look at it, and know that Eric Holder knew nothing about it. Yet come May 3, Eric Holder claimed he only learned that "Fast and Furiou" was controversial in "the last few weeks". Puzzling?
Well, sort of - it depends on the meaning of "a few". From late March to early May is about five weeks; even if the inspector general had been involved in mid-March, that is still only a six or seven week lag. Is seven "a few" weeks? Hey, time flies when you're planning civilian trials for Qaeda terrorists and investigating the CIA.
And let's note this previous Administration clarification:
Following the release of the memos, a Justice Department official said that Holder "has consistently said he became aware of the questionable tactics in early 2011 when ATF agents first raised them publicly, and then promptly asked the (inspector general) to investigate the matter."
According to the official, Holder testified in March 2011, to a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, of that development...
Well, has anyone seen that March testimony? My time management and search skills are betraying me, but it certainly fits the emerging Administration cover-up timeline. That said, one would presume that a sympathetic Senaor would be talking this testimony up if it were helpful to Holder.
As to how or when Obama learned about "Fast and Furious" on the news, I welcome reader's thoughts. I am pretty sure he didn't read about it in the NY Times, but maybe he tunes in to CBS [on Feb 23, 2011, for example]. Or is Obama a secret Rush listener?
UPDATE: The breakout CBS story cites the Avila indictment, which was unsealed Jan 25, 2011. Avila was a straw purchaser tracked for quite a while and busted after two of "his" gus turned up near two dead Border Patrol agents. That seems to have prompted the ensuing cover-up, or fog bank.
A Coast Guard officer was spat upon by Occupy Boston protestors. By way of the Captain we learn that there is nothing to see here; Occupy Boston spokesflacks explained that the spitting was by provacateurs.
Aaron Worthing at Patterico's Pontifications recalls the lefty myth that such spitting never occurred during the Vietnm era. That prompts a flash-back to Jerry Lembke, an earnest lib who promoted the "no spitting, never happened" story. Jacj Shafer of Slate kept the debate alive for years, but eventually bowed to reality.
I had several appraisals of Lembke's politicized, agenda driven social "science"; here is one.
The White House is getting irked about persistent speculation in the media that President Obama might dump Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. as his running mate in 2012 in favor of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Iwant speculation about a Hillary/Obama swap.
Barack Obama explains the US attitude towards Iran following the disruption of a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador:
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama said Thursday that officials at the "highest levels" of the Iranian government must be held accountable for a brazen and bizarre plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States on American soil, insisting leaders of the world will believe the U.S. case without dispute once they absorb the details.
Obama would not say whether Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, or its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, knew of the alleged plan. Yet he called it part of a pattern of "dangerous and reckless behavior" by the Iranian government and said people within that government were aware of a murder-for-hire plot.
The U.S. considers it an attempted act of terrorism.
"We believe that even if at the highest levels there was not detailed operational knowledge, there has to be accountability with respect to anybody in the Iranian government engaging in this kind of activity," Obama said in a news conference tied to the state visit of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.
Interesting - Obama seems to holding the Iranians to a higher standard for internal communication than he expects from his own Attorney General. Or maybe the Mexicans should indict Eric Holder, claiming he should have known about "Fast and Furious".
The decision by Bank of America (and now other banks) to raise their debit card fees has prompted Congressional ire posturing:
Lawmakers seek probe on banks' new debit card fees
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Members of Congress are asking the Justice Department to investigate whether Bank of America and other major banks improperly worked together to charge customers new monthly fees for using their debit cards.
Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and four other Democrats said Thursday that they've asked Attorney General Eric Holder to open a probe into possible collusion by the banks.
Welch said the lawmakers had no evidence of collusion. But he said the timing of the fees merit an investigation.
"You don't have a competitive marketplace," Welch said at a news conference.
They question the timing! Well, why is everyone lookign at fee increases just now?
Bank of America, the nation's largest bank, said the monthly charge was necessary because the Federal Reserve has capped the fees that they can charge merchants for swiping the debit cards. Congress directed the Fed to adopt the cap on swipe fees under the financial overhaul law.
Here is some background on the final Fed rules. And the evidence of collusion?
The lawmakers said statements made by some banks and their trade associations raise questions about possible coordination.
In their letter to Holder, they cite an e-mail by the Texas Bankers Association to its members. It was sent after legislation failed that would have delayed a cap on the swipe fees banks can charge merchants.
The e-mail said: "Now the industry must regroup and each and every one of you must decide how you are going to pay for the use of debit cards. It may be through a monthly fee."
Pretty suspicious! I suggest the DoJ ought to include ABC News in their dragnet, since these Wall Street water-carriers included this coded message in their analysis of how the new rules might effect consumers:
Fees for debit cards or debit transactions? Be on the alert.
Although less likely under the current cap than under the previous proposal, it's still very possible that some issuers will start charging debit card fees, at least on less profitable accounts. As with ATM fees, they'll start small, test the waters, and if successful, slowly raise them. Just as we've become accustomed to ever increasing ATM fees, we may adjust to the idea of debit card fees as well. And just as some financial institutions waive ATM fees for their best customers, the same is likely to happen with debit cards as well.
1. Overview of Comments Received
...issuers, their trade groups, payment card networks, and some consumers opposed the proposal for a range of reasons, including concern that it would decrease revenue to issuing banks; result in increased cardholder fees or decreased availability of debit card services...
One might infer that higher fees to consumers were a predictable consequence of reducing fees paid by merchants. But Congress can't be fooled that easily!
It's fun checking the Big Media reaction to Congressional passage of three free-trade deals. The NY Times sees a win for Obama with just a hint as to the identity of the opposition:
WASHINGTON — Congress passed three long-awaited free trade agreements on Wednesday, ending a political standoff that has stretched across two presidencies. The move offered a rare moment of bipartisan accord at a time when Republicans and Democrats are bitterly divided over the role that government ought to play in reviving the sputtering economy.
The approval of the deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama is a victory for President Obama and proponents of the view that foreign trade can drive America’s economic growth in the face of rising protectionist sentiment in both political parties. They are the first trade agreements to pass Congress since Democrats broke a decade of Republican control in 2007.
All three agreements cleared both chambers with overwhelming Republican support just one day after Senate Republicans prevented action on Mr. Obama’s jobs bill.
The Washington Post has Obama the winner:
Obama gets win as Congress passes free-trade agreements
Congress resoundingly approved long-stalled trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama late Wednesday, authorizing the most significant expansion of trade relations in nearly two decades.
...The House approved all three deals and was quickly followed by the Senate. Final approval of the agreements represents a victory for the Obama administration and congressional leaders in both parties... (Hmm, Harry Reid voted against the bills. Leadership that's shirking!)
Only in the tenth paragraph do they identify the dead-enders Obama managed to vanquish:
Several Democrats and prominent labor unions, however, oppose the deals, arguing that they could help U.S. companies without bringing much benefit to U.S. workers, particularly if increased imports lead to widespread layoffs. Some also argue that the agreements serve to reward two countries, Panama and Colombia, that have been hostile to organized labor and international environmental standards.
The LA Times sees the winners and losers more clearly:
Despite divisiveness, Congress passes 3 trade pacts
After a debate marked by disagreement among Democrats, both houses approve free-trade deals with Panama, Colombia and South Korea, a key victory for President Obama.
October 13, 2011
Congress passed a trio of free-trade agreements late Wednesday, removing barriers to trade with Panama, South Korea and Colombia — but exacerbating deep disagreements among Democrats on the government's role in protecting U.S. industries.
The approval of the pacts, in a rare bipartisan collaboration, is a big victory for President Obama, who sold the deals as a key step toward bolstering job growth. But it angered liberal groups and labor unions that say the agreements will hurt working Americans by subjecting them to additional foreign competition and accelerating a race to the bottom on wages.
Well, it certainly helps Obama to show that he can get stuff done in defiance of his base.
After the debate, NBC News’ Domenico Montanaro checked one of Cain’s claims—that a family pulling in $50,000 currently pays $10,000 in taxes. As Cain would say, the problem with that analysis is that it’s incorrect. With the grab bag of deductions left in place by Bush and Obama reforms, that family pays $766 in taxes.
It's amazing how libs drop their own talking points as soon as it is convenient. Let's cut to Paul Krugman rehearsing the progressive catechism:
One is that you have to beware of the old trick of saying “taxes”, then slipping into “income taxes”. Most Americans pay more payroll than income taxes, but the reverse is true at high incomes. So focusing only on income taxes makes it seem as if the rich pay much more of the burden than they really do.
Well, fine - I may take exception to that (since Social Security taxes are tied directly to the eventual Social Security benefit and the overall program is redistributive), but whatever. For current purposes, if Herman Cain says he is eliminating the payroll tax, it might behoove NBC News and Dave Weigel to look at total taxes paid by the middle class, including the payroll tax.
Setting aside the temporary holidays, the payroll tax is at 15.3%. One might argue just how much of that is actually borne by the worker, but it is not unreasonable to argue that all of it is. In which case, our family that earned $50,000 may have paid a total of $7,650 in payroll taxes (Half of that shows up on their pay stub; the other half represents potential wages paid by the employer to the Feds rather than to the employee.)
So figure a total tax liability for this hypothetical family of $766 in income taxes and $7,650 in payroll taxes, which nets to $8,416.
Now, here is how Herman Cain estimated their liability under 9-9-9:
“Today under the current system, they will pay over $10,000 in taxes assuming standard deductions and standard exemptions,” Cain claimed. “I’ve gone through the math -- $10,000. Now, with 9-9-9, they’re going to pay that 9% personal tax on their income, so that’s only $4,500. They still have $5,500 left over to apply to the sales tax piece, and if you go and look at how much of it they would probably spend on sales taxes for new goods, not used, used goods they don’t pay a sales tax. They are still going to have money left over, Chuck.”
Mr. Cain's $10,000 figure for the current system presumably includes the payroll tax; he did not offer a specific estimate for the sales tax burden of the 9-9-9 plan. However, if the family spends $43,511 on goods subject to the 9% sales tax, their aggregate tax liability will equal $8,416.
Well. I have other objections to the 9-9-9 plan, since it is a real blow to retirees living off of their already-taxed savings. Let's also note that conservatives who like to engage in social engineering through the tax code (e.g., the family-friendly child credit) need to be ready to forgo that bit of weaponry.
And if I may refresh the bitterness of my youth, one of my great irritations with Bush 43 is that he failed to combine tax reform with tax cuts. Revenue neutral tax reform, as proposed by Mr. Cain, pits prospective winners against prospective losers, resulting in a political quagmire. Revenue-cutting reform can make everybody a winner; people and interest groups will still scuffle over their relative gains, but a much larger group will be committed to seeing the reform happen.
But enough of these lost opportunities - I am looking forward! And what I am looking forward to is better analysis than these comedy scripts from NBC News.
UPON FURTHER REFLECTION: My guess is that a proper analysis would still conclude that the 9-9-9 plan will represent a tax increase for the middle class. Just to create a bit of intellectual momentum, I seized these CBO reports from 2009, in which they estimate the aggregate effective Federal tax rate for five income quintiles. The mean income of the 2nd quintile was $39,400 in 2006; the third quintile mean was $60,700.
As to Federal taxation, the CBO evaluates the Federal income tax, the imputed and actual payroll tax, Federal excise taxes (e.g., gasoline) and the corporate income tax. Their effective tax rates are (again, I am stuck in 2006) 10.2% for the 2nd quintile and 14.2% for the third quintile.
I would guess that a 9% income tax and 9% sales tax would take these households closer to 18%.
I would also note that the earned income tax credit is designed as assistance to the working poor. Either this program has to die (yike!), Mr. Cain has to preserve it by way of tax complification, or it has to be treated as a separate program.
I'm stealing material from my son now, but his observation was that a German would have the best answer to 9-9-9. Whch would, of course, be Nein-nein-nein.
(OK, what my son really said was that he thought it would be great to see Herman Cain over in Europe respinding to all these bailout requests. Creative license.)
The FBI press release includes an interesting detail about the arrest of one of the suspects in the alleged Iranian assassination plot:
On Sept. 29, 2011, Arbabsiar was arrested by federal agents during a flight layover at JFK International Airport in New York. Several hours after his arrest, Arbabsiar was advised of his Miranda rights and he agreed to waive those rights and speak with law enforcement agents. During a series of Mirandized interviews, Arbabsiar allegedly confessed to his participation in the murder plot.
"Several hours"? Hard to believe they were just standing by the luggage carousel waiting for his bags.
Back when the Underwear Bomber was arrested Holder took a lot of flack for Mirandizing the suspect too quickly. Evidently, that lesson has been learned.
The Senate declines to take up Obama's modified jobs bill. Fifty Democrats were in favor; two were opposed for matters of political self-preservation and Harry Reid switched to "no" so that, under Senate rules he could preserve a right to recall the measure. All Republicans were "no".
Maybe Harry Reid could move to Slovakia - their parliament brought down the government rather than agree to join the Euro-wide Greece bail-out.
Here we go.
OUCH: Herman Cain wants a Fed Chairman like Alan Greenspan? Yike! Well, he did specify early Alan, when Mr. Greenspan was still a genius back in the early 90's. The Long Term Capital bailing, NASDAQ and housing bubble blowing Alan came later. Ron Paul at least picked Paul Volcker.
In the same exchange Herman Cain denied Ron Paul's accusation that Cain had accused proponents of a Federal Reserve audit of ignorance of basic Fed operatons. Did everyone guess Cain was, hmm, misremembering his past?
I thought Romney walked away a winner.
Nancy Pelosi gets caught in another wealth/non-disclosure/influence peddling incident that would be a scandal if she were a Republican:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s husband, a real estate developer and investment banker, stands to make millions of dollars in a previously undisclosed residential real estate project in California as a partner with the father of a woman Mrs. Pelosi helped become ambassador to Hungary, records show.
Paul F. Pelosi’s investment in Russell Ranch is worth at least $5 million and possibly as much as $25 million in a deal put together by his friend and longtime business associate, Angelo Tsakopoulos, patriarch of a multimillion-dollar real estate development firm, according to Mrs. Pelosi’s latest personal-disclosure statement.
The first Russell Ranch listing came a month after The Washington Times raised questions about business dealings between Mr. Pelosi and Mr. Tsakopoulos and Mrs. Pelosi’s successful efforts to help his daughter, Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis, become ambassador. For 2009, Mrs. Pelosi reported that the Russell Ranch investment was worth between $1 million and $5 million. The next year, she listed the value as between $5 million and $25 million.
Nadeam Elshami, spokesman for Mrs. Pelosi, said the California Democrat did not have to list the Russell Ranch investment because it was held in the name of another company her husband owns, Forty-Five Belden Corp., which is a Subchapter S corporation and taxes it owes are paid by the shareholders rather than the corporation.
Per The Hill, Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax reform is taking fire from left and right. But let me add a criticism not made here - replacing the payroll tax with a sales tax is a real blow to the elderly, who paid payroll taxes their working lives and will now be hit with the consumption tax. If we were cutting our tax system from a whole cloth then a tax on consumption would make more sense than a tax on work. However, we are now (and always will be) in mid-stream, as it were, and the switch might seem unfair to certain groups.
On the plus side, obviously some old folks will welcome Cain's proposed elimination of the estate tax.