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The Congressional Budget Office has released its updated budget projections.

Good news:

CBO now estimates that if the current laws that govern federal taxes and spending do not change, the budget deficit in fiscal year 2014 will be $492 billion. Relative to the size of the economy, that deficit—at 2.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP)—will be nearly a third less than the $680 billion shortfall in fiscal year 2013, which was equal to 4.1 percent of GDP. This will be the fifth consecutive year in which the deficit has declined as a share of GDP since peaking at 9.8 percent in 2009.

Bad news:

But if current laws do not change, the period of shrinking deficits will soon come to an end. Between 2015 and 2024, annual budget shortfalls are projected to rise substantially—from a low of $469 billion in 2015 to about $1 trillion from 2022 through 2024—mainly because of the aging population, rising health care costs, an expansion of federal subsidies for health insurance, and growing interest payments on federal debt. CBO expects that cumulative deficits during that decade will equal $7.6 trillion.

Bottom Line: Few legislators read the CBO’s documents. Fragments are cherry picked and appended to talking points when convenient. But the larger argument that the CBO, the GAO and the OMB have been making consistently for the past decade is met with silence.

For an overview of the CBO’s budget projections, see the National Journal.

Montreal talk

Tomorrow (Friday) at 5 PM, I will be at McGill University in Montreal to give a talk on “The Ethics and Economics of Secession.” All are welcome. Here are additional details:

Jason Sorens PhD, the founder of the Free State Project will be in Montreal for a guest lecture at McGill.

The event is an initiative of the Youth for Liberty (Jeunes pour la Liberté) group, the local chapter of Students for Liberty.

The event is co-sponsored by McGill’s Research Group in Constitutional Studies (RGCS).

The topic for this guest lecture will be:
“The Ethics and Economics of Secession”

Address
McGill University: Ferrier Building
840 Dr Penfield Avenue
Montréal, QC H3A 1A4

Room
Ferrier 456

Time Sink

The Sunlight Foundation has released a wonderful program (Capitol Words) that allows one to chart the number of times that members of the House and Senate have used specific words on the floor. You can chart the number of occurrences by party (try “debt” and see that both parties are concerned about the debt, albeit only when the president is from the other party). You can also compare different words (try “Koch” and “Benghazi” for example). I only wish that one could save the charts. H/t  Shane Goldmacher.

 

 

 

Bill Clinton is often quite a delight as ex-president, free to opine on a variety of subjects without being confined by anyone’s talking points. Case in point: his comments on Edward Snowden delivered before the Naval Academy earlier this week. As reported by Dustin Volz (National Journal):

“Mr. Snowden has been sort of an imperfect messenger, from my point of view, for what we need to be talking about here,” Bill Clinton said during a 50-minute speech at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. “The Snowden case has raised all of these questions about whether we can use technology to protect the national security without destroying the liberty, which includes the right to privacy, of basically innocent bystanders.”

And

“We cannot change the character of our country or compromise the future of our people by creating a national security state, which takes away the liberty and privacy we propose to advance,” Bill said Wednesday, adding, “Don’t kill the goose that laid the golden egg.”

I am assuming many would disagree with his statements, including the former Secretary of State and the current President. But this appears not to trouble him in the least. Give him a podium and he will speak (and speak). That is the unbearable lightness of being Bill Clinton.

McCutcheon

There has been much coverage of last week’s Supreme Court decision on campaign finance (McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission), most of it negative (insert shocked surprise here) given that it will provide more opportunities for the wealthy to shape public policy. As Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) observes:

“It is far too often the case in Washington that powerful corporate interests, the wealthy, and the well-connected get to write the rules and now the Supreme Court has given them more power to rule the ballot box by creating an uneven playing field where big money matters more than the voice of ordinary citizens.”

Perhaps one should not be too quick to fault the “powerful corporate interests, the wealthy, and the well-connected.” They are only being rational. They clearly understand that there are largely two ways to thrive economically: (1) produce more of the things that people value or (2) seek a variety of policy-related privileges that allow you to lay claim to what others have produced and/or create impediments to what your competitors might produce. Over time, the second of these paths—rent-seeking or transfer-seeking has grown in importance in shaping economic outcomes. It is effective, often invisible, and the costs are borne by taxpayers and consumers. As long the elected officials of both parties are in the business of selling privileges, there will be buyers. The rent seeking society will thrive, even as it throttles growth and economic dynamism and contributes to our long-term fiscal problems.

One should not be surprised that the critique of the McCutcheon decision has begun to merge with the attack on the Koch brothers. This morning, a Google search for “McCutcheon and Koch” generates 364,000 hits (I am assuming this number will grow rapidly). Apparently, some believe the best way to frame the decision is to connect it to the Koch brothers, creating a compelling tale of a new plutocracy. Continue Reading »

Public opinion has moved very quickly there against Italy:

UPDATE: I misread the poll. These numbers are consistent with what we have seen in the past: a solid majority against independence.

UPDATE 2: Italian police have also arrested 24 Venetian secessionists on charges of “terrorism,” that is, George Washington-style rebellion. Italy is one of the cases I discuss in my book as being at higher risk of secessionist violence than Scotland, Wales, Puerto Rico, the Faroes, Quebec, or Flanders, because unlike these others it has no legal means for secession.

Too Early?

Charlie Cook (National Journal) has some initial thoughts on the 2016 GOP candidate (his “Republican Bracket”). I always find Cook interesting. One particularly odd observation:

“Sometimes after losing two consecutive presidential contests, parties become more pragmatic and move toward the center. Other times, they double down on ideology. Logic would argue for a GOP move toward a center-right nominee for 2016.”

Question to contemplate: How can one move from McCain and Romney to the center right?

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