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.

Further to The Sullivan File

Ah, Andrew.

Sullivan is at it again.


I don’t often write about Andrew Sullivan, in part because the two parts of his work I dislike the most — his propensity for “man on a horse” hero-worship and his difficulties with science and numbers — are both dealt with more than capably by others, including front pagers here.

On the affirmative side, I keep quiet about him in part because he’s been right on some big things, at times when a lot of others weren’t — I’m thinking particularly of his torture posts.


But he’s got an item up now that got to me, an awesome mix of intellectual laziness and simple wrongness contained within just four words of a one-paragraph long piece.  Of the possibility of revolt at the hostage ransom to be paid to those who hate America, he writes (under the headline “Pelosi’s Pique”):

The threat not to bring the tax cut deal to the floor of the House seems particularly dumb to me…this is presumably a vent rather than a determined strategy for obstruction. At least I hope so. Between Pelosi and McCain, [emphasis added] the sheer difficulty of getting anything done in this polarized climate, even stuff supported by hefty margins among the public, is beyond depressing.


What gravels me most, is (a) the insult to Pelosi by comparing her to McCain in any way and (b) the awesome stupidity of the suggestion that it is Pelosi (or the House Democrats) who are to blame for gridlock.


On the McCain juxtaposition:


Recall that the senior Senator from Arizona has an almost impossibly thin legislative record for someone who has been in Congress for 28 years.


Pelosi on the other hand?  Here’s a tally of the major legislation passed in the 111th Congress.  Every one of those bills was passed under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi, of course; nearly every one was opposed and obstructed by that waste of valuable Congressional stationery, John McCain.  He’s been great for his Indian gaming friends, but he has stood by as the GOP-selected activist Supremes gutted his signature (shared) accomplishment:  the McCain Feingold campaign finance law.


Sullivan, of course, knows this.  I’m assuming he’s pissed at McCain for his grotesque anti-gay bigotry on DADT.  I am too.  But that ain’t Pelosi’s fault.


And all that frames the obvious second point.  The Democrats have been trying hard, as we all know, actually to get things done.  They may not have been nearly as effective as we would like, but that is not, in the end, really their/our fault.  As noted today right here, that outcome is baked into the difference of aims and incentives between the Grotesque Old Party and that circular firing squad in which I am proud to be a member.


And of all the possible legislators to pick on, a leader of the House of Representatives who whipped her caucus into vote after vote on legislation known to be doomed in the McCain-infested Senate has to be the last one you’d choose.  For FSM’s sake:  Pelosi’s House passed the extension of the Bush middle class tax cuts already.  Oy.


I’m just venting.  Everyone reading this knows all of what I’ve just said.  But when someone like Sullivan, who has in fact mostly figured out that  that everytime the GOP wins something these days, America loses, can’t break that  “both sides do it” b.s. reflex it gives you a sense of how wired for stupid our political discourse is.


Rule number one:  Don’t give cover to the folks who are holding you, Andrew — and all the rest of us — as hostages.

Images:  Jean Louis Théodore Géricault, The Wounded Cuirassier, 1814.

Édouard Manet, The Execution of Emperor Maximilian, 1867. (added, because I just love this painting.)

Change You Can Believe In

After banning earmarks and solving the deficit, Republicans in the House are going to ban symbolic resolutions, which by itself will lower the unemployment rate by at least a couple of percentage points.

(Via Ezra Klein, who is wrong about these resolutions – they don’t make any difference in the House, which is a pretty streamlined operation compared to the tea cooling saucer/constipated old lady that is your United States Senate.)