Circa 1949

Here’s a little video in honor of St. Ronnie’s 100th birthday. As far as I’m concerned, this is pretty much a documentary of the Reagan attitude, plus or minus Grenada and cocktails with Tip. His presidency marked the beginning of the nostalgic, “America fuck yeah” non-response to real problems. Even so, he’d be called a RINO today, because he governed as a center-right President who raised taxes and signed an amnesty bill for undocumented immigrants.

More of This, Please (SocSec edition)

I really like the analogy Bob Herbert uses in his latest NYTimes column to rebut the catfood-commissioners “Raising False Alarms“:

When you see surveillance videos of some creep mugging an elderly person in an elevator or apartment lobby, the universal reaction is outrage. But when the fat cats and the ideologues want to hack away at the lifeline of Social Security, they are treated somehow as respectable, even enlightened members of the society.
We need a reality check. Attacking Social Security is both cruel and unnecessary. It needs to stop.
“If we didn’t have Social Security, we’d have to invent it right now,” said Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future. “It’s perfectly suited to the terrible times we’re going through. Hardly anyone has pensions anymore. People’s private savings have taken a huge hit, and home prices have been hit hard. So the private savings that so many seniors and soon-to-be seniors have counted on have just been wiped out.
“Social Security is still there, and it’s still paying out retirement benefits indexed to wages. It’s the one part of the retirement stool that is working.”
The deficit hawks and the right-wingers can scream all they want, but there is no Social Security crisis. There is a foreseeable problem with the program’s long-term financing, but it can be fixed with changes that do no harm to its elderly beneficiaries. One obvious step would be to raise the cap on payroll taxes so that wealthy earners shoulder a fairer share of the burden…
The folks who want to raise the retirement age and hack away at benefits for ordinary working Americans are inevitably those who have not the least worry about their own retirement. The haves so often get a perverse kick out of bullying the have-nots.

This would be an excellent column to forward to all those Facebook friends and teabagged relatives, IMO.

A Death Trap, A Suicide Rap

This list of 100 programs the Republican Study Commission wants to cut to balance the budget is a political death sentence for the Republican party, since it cuts a number of popular and necessary programs.

To pick on just one, consider “Essential Air Service”, a subsidy that allows rural areas to have a couple of commuter flights in airports where airlines would otherwise pull out. When a town that’s 200 miles from the next nearest airport loses air service, saying “it saved $150 million” is not going to get the Republican who voted for this bill re-elected.

Even so, most of the named cuts are mice nuts compared to where they think they’ll get the real savings. For example, it only takes the removal of the $150 million subsidy to DC’s mass transit to shut the place down, but I have no doubt that once they cut that, the federal government will “save” $150 million in the very short term. I can’t say the same for cuts like:

  • Sell excess federal properties the government does not make use of. $15 billion total savings.
  • Require collection of unpaid taxes by federal employees. $1 billion total savings.
  • Prohibit taxpayer funded union activities by federal employees. $1.2 billion savings over ten years.

These reek of ideological bullshit and fiscal stupidity. Yes, let’s dump as much federal property as possible in a depressed real-estate market – we’ll surely get $15 billion selling low. And I’d like to see the fine print on the other two.

But my nitpicking is obscuring the big picture. The real savings from the plan is from a rollback of discretionary federal spending to 2006 levels and a freeze through 2021. I’d love to see John Boehner sell ten years without pork-touting press releases to his caucus.


Jindal’s sand berm was a total boondoggle:

[T]he independent commission appointed by President Obama to investigate the oil spill has chimed in as well. Its verdict is, if anything, more harsh than the assessment offered by earlier critics: In the report the commission’s members released today, they concluded the berm project was a total bust that succeeded in capturing virtually no oil.

In emphatic language, the bi-partisan commission announced that it can “comfortably conclude that the decision to green-light the underwhelmingly effective, overwhelmingly expensive Louisiana berms project was flawed.”

The total amount of oil captured by the $360 million berm was, at most, 1,000 barrels.  Skimming and burning got rid of 890K-1.85 million barrels.


Don’t know how we missed this yesterday:

Facing a huge budget deficit when he took office in January, Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano did not impose a hiring freeze. He did not stop borrowing to subsidize some of the richest school districts in the country. He did not eliminate the Police Department’s beloved mounted unit.

Instead, Mr. Mangano, a Republican who won one of the first upsets of the Tea Party era, did what he had promised: He cut taxes, adding $40 million to the county’s deficit, which has since reached nearly $350 million.

Now, with its bonds suddenly downgraded and a state oversight agency preparing to seize its checkbook and credit cards, Nassau is on the verge of a full-fledged fiscal crisis.

New York Republicans think high taxes are choking the state to death, yet they are committed to delivering a high level of government services. Once they get into office, they usually find a bunch of one-offs (sale/leasebacks, Medicaid reimbursement accounting tricks, etc.) to avoid raising taxes while maintaining services for the white suburban voter. It will be fun to watch what happens when those voters experience the consequences of electing a true believer who can’t be bothered to fuck the books.