The search for a legacy always begins in earnest as presidents approach the final years of their time in office. Josh Kraushaar (National Journal) has an interesting piece on the Obama legacy. A key passage: By ignoring the electorate and steering the country in an unmistakably progressive direction his final two years in office, he's … Continue reading The Eight Year Mirage
Thomas B. Edsall has an interesting piece in the New York Times on the “Republican Discovery of the Poor,” the embrace of economic populism, and the promotion of reforms, including changes to the tax code. Edsall understands the potential challenge to Democrats as Republicans “plan to bring the fight to the Democrats on their own … Continue reading The Reformicons
Despite candidate Obama’s promises of greater openness and transparency, the last few years have not been good ones with respect to freedom of the press. As Al Hunt observes: “The Obama administration has pursued more journalists than other administrations, secretly looking at phone records and credit card transactions and surreptitiously tracking their movements.” A new … Continue reading The Big Chill
Interest in childhood vaccinations has risen in the past few weeks, with the growing number of cases of measles. As Christopher Ingraham (Washington Post) notes: “Public opinion polling shows that vaccination attitudes don't differ much by party affiliation. Or by income, or even education. But there is one important demographic factor: age.” Rand Paul has run … Continue reading Vaccinate This
In the State of the Union, President Obama proclaimed the good economic news. He declared 2014 a “breakthrough year for America,” noting “our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999.” He also made the case for “middle-class economics,” promising a budget that would focus on “lowering the taxes of working families … Continue reading The Breakthrough Year?
Critics of the President’s State of the Union address noted it did little to promote bipartisanship. Yet, it has already stimulated bipartisan agreement on one of the President’s education proposals. In the State of the Union, President Obama proposed free community college: “I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost … Continue reading The SOTU and Bipartisanship
Yes, it is tonight. Those of us who actually follow these things can predict that many of the initiatives that will be announced by President Obama will have little significance with respect to policy because they will never make it through Congress. Priscilla Alvarez (National Journal) has an annotated version of the 2014 SOTU address, … Continue reading SOTU
Dragnet's Joe Friday may have never uttered those words, but he would be impressed nonetheless by the facts on crime. There was a fascinating piece by Erik Eckholm in yesterday’s New York Times on the dramatic reductions in crime over the past several decades. Overall, crime peaked in 1991 and has fallen steadily since then. … Continue reading Just the Facts Ma’am
The number of people ages 18-64 receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) under the Old-Age, Survivors and Disability (OASDI) program has increased dramatically in the recent past. Ana Swanson (Washington Post, Wonk Blog) has brief piece that focuses on SSDI. It includes a map (by Seth Kadish, Vizual Statistix) graphically representing the percentage of beneficiaries … Continue reading Reforming the Disability Welfare State?
There is a delightful piece in the New York Times on the reaction of the Harvard faculty to the reality of health care reform: For years, Harvard’s experts on health economics and policy have advised presidents and Congress on how to provide health benefits to the nation at a reasonable cost. But those remedies will … Continue reading Ideas have Consequences
And it is Thomas Piketty: "I do not think it is the government's role to decide who is honorable." On his refusal to accept the Legion d'honneur (h/t Marginal Revolution).
Peggy Noonan has a wonderful piece in today's Wall Street Journal. It concludes with a dream: A closing note: I always thought, life often being unfair, that Fidel Castro would die the death of a happy monster, old, in bed, a cigar jutting out from the pillows, a brandy on the bedside table. My dream … Continue reading Dreaming Castro
The Obama administration’s decision to begin normalizing relations with Cuba has generated much praise and criticism. You can read the lead editorials in the New York Times and the Washington Post to get a flavor for the arguments, pro and con. On the right, the divisions between conservatives and libertarians have found a predictable expression. … Continue reading Thoughts on Cuba
Last week we received the “good news” about the economy. Unsurprisingly, I was a bit skeptical (here). While jobs are being created—321,000 in November alone—long-term unemployment and workplace participation rates remain abysmal. For those who would like to celebrate the recovery, I recommend Binyamin Appelbaum piece on “The Vanishing Male Worker” (NYT). As Appelbaum notes: … Continue reading The New Normal Can’t Last
“The US government’s failure to ensure basic transparency and accountability in its torture policies, to provide necessary details about its enhanced interrogation program, or adequately to set out the legal factors involved in decisions to torture hinders necessary democratic debate about a key aspect of US foreign and national security policy. US practices may also facilitate … Continue reading A Failed Policy
There is great buzz over today’s jobs report. The economy added 321,000 jobs in November. The New York Times: “After more than five years of elusive gains, ordinary Americans may finally be about to see the benefits of the recovery where it really counts: in their pocketbooks and wallets. … For the year as a … Continue reading Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
Here are a few interesting links to help get you over hump day. Thomas Edsall (NY Times) on the impact of Obamacare on the Democratic Party. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) attributed the difficulties faced by Democrats to the strategic error of passing the Affordable Care Act immediately rather that addressing the economic struggles of the … Continue reading Midweek Links
“Democrats must embrace government. It’s what we believe in; it’s what unites our party; and, most importantly, it’s the only thing that’s going to get the middle class going again.” “Even this past election — a debacle for Democrats — was not a repudiation of government,” according to Senator Schumer (D-NY) in a speech to … Continue reading And the Lesson of 2014 is…
President Obama is preparing to issue an executive order on immigration—the executive action that has been promised for some time. As one might guess, the NYT editorial board is pleased. Some supporters of liberalized immigration (including a path to citizenship) are concerned over the damage that Obama’s actions will do to the rule of law. As … Continue reading Executive Action, Congressional Inaction
The press has been a buzz about the climate agreement between Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping. The agreement commits the US to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent by 2025 (2005 baseline), well ahead of current projections. China has committed to stop growth in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 at the latest, … Continue reading Historic Milestone?
A week has passed since the election, and I think Ron Fournier (National Journal) has provided a decent interpretation of the results: The winners were disgust, apathy, and a gnawing desire for a better choice – an alternative to what the two major parties currently are offering. Rather than a mandate for anything, the results … Continue reading A Mandate for Meh
Gordon Tullock, one of the leading figures in Public Choice, died yesterday at the age of 92. As James Bovard notes: "Since he had perennially scoffed at the notion that voting is worthwhile, it is ironic that he cashed in his chips on Election Day. But since he was living in Illinois at the time … Continue reading Gordon Tullock, RIP
Democrats are increasingly pessimistic about holding the Senate. As Greg Sargent notes in the Washington Post: with Democrats narrowly favored in New Hampshire and North Carolina, the route to 50 seats will probably also require Democratic wins in Colorado and Iowa at the outset, followed by a surprise pickup elsewhere. This is not impossible. But … Continue reading The Next Congress
The New York Times had piece this weekend on the IRS and asset forfeiture: Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their cash, the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can … Continue reading The IRS and Asset Forfeiture
Federal revenues ($3.02 trillion) for fiscal year 2014 are above estimates and have set a new record. Another record: $4 billion spent in the 2014 midterms. Question: are there no limits to how much one might spend to earn the right to spend? Republicans support entitlement reform, unless they don’t (which is the case as … Continue reading Friday Links
Things are moving rapidly as the nation continues to respond to the Ebola “crisis.” Schools are closing (NYT). The military is in on the action, as CNN reports, “forming a 30-person "quick-strike team" equipped to provide direct treatment to Ebola patients inside the United States.” Most significant, President Obama has named an Ebola czar, Thomas … Continue reading The Continuing “Crisis”
Chairman Mao once remarked “Everything under heaven is in utter chaos; the situation is excellent.” It would appear that we are in a period of “utter chaos.” First, ISIS dominated the news. Now we have the Ebola “outbreak.” The situation is “excellent” from a political perspective precisely because crises (real or constructed) provide windows of … Continue reading The Risk of Ebola
That is Aaron Blake’s advice for the White House (Washington Post): “For the first time since January, President Obama is polling a 50 percent approval rating on an issue: his handling of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.” The newest WaPo-ABC poll shows 50 percent approve of Obama's handling of the Islamic State, as … Continue reading Get Ready to Pop the Champaign
Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. is on his way out the door, and the New York Times Editorial Board has a lengthy farewell. Please read it in its entirety, because you will need to work through ten paragraphs before you arrive at this: Under Mr. Holder, the Justice Department approved the targeted killing of civilians, … Continue reading A Fond Farewell
Glenn Greenwald notes that the bombing targets in Syria marks something of a new record: Syria becomes the 7th predominantly Muslim country bombed by the 2009 Nobel Peace Laureate – after Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Iraq. The utter lack of interest in what possible legal authority Obama has to bomb Syria is telling … Continue reading Number 7
This week we celebrated Constitution Day, by among other things, watching Congress authorize funding for a war that is not a war, and allowing it to be waged on the basis of a 2001 use-of-force resolution that authorized military actions against parties involved with the 9/11 attacks (conveniently, it did not have an expiration date). … Continue reading Vox Populi
Bad guys (and gals) beware: Dustin Volz (National Journal) reports that the “FBI’s Facial-Recognition Technology Has Achieved ‘Full Operational Capability’” The agency announced two new services Monday that complete the database's "operational capability." The first, called Rap Back, allows officials to receive "ongoing status notifications" regarding the reported criminal history of people "in positions of trust, … Continue reading I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face
Barack Obama announced his new strategy for ISIL on 9/10: “So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultation with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.” -- The coalition partners are important because our efforts “will … Continue reading The Coalition of the Kind of Willing?
Michael Salla, Robert O’Harrow Jr, and Steven Rich (The Washington Post) have written an interesting series on asset forfeiture (see the teaser “Civil asset forfeitures more than double under Obama,” by Christopher Ingraham on Wonkblog). The basic presumption of asset forfeiture is simple: you are guilty until proven innocent. If you are the target of … Continue reading The Presumption of Guilt and the Glories of “Stop and Seize”
President Obama’s comments at a press conference in Estonia has attracted quite a bit of heat. The President stated: "we know that if we are joined by the international community, we can continue to shrink ISIL’s sphere of influence, its effectiveness, its financing, its military capabilities to the point where it is a manageable problem." … Continue reading Evil as a Manageable Problem
The NYT editorial board is concerned about the shortage of kidneys for transplants. As one might expect, the most obvious solution to the problem is automatically dismissed: While some argue that the way to reduce the growing shortage is to pay living donors for kidneys, either in cash or government benefits, there are many ways … Continue reading Organ Markets
On August 7, Robert Draper (New York Times) asked: “Has the ‘Libertarian Moment’ Finally Arrived?” One excerpt: Libertarians, who long have relished their role as acerbic sideline critics of American political theater, now find themselves and their movement thrust into the middle of it. For decades their ideas have had serious backing financially (most prominently … Continue reading In Search of the Libertarian Moment
George Will (Washington Post) has an interesting essay on “progressivism’s ratchet.” His “Cupcake Postulate” illustrates the dynamic: federal school lunch subsidies lead to regulation of food content,which justifies the regulation of competing foods from vending machines, and—finally—whether cupcakes sold at bake sales meet federal standards. Government authority spreads—“the cupcake-policing government” finds “unending excuses for flexing its … Continue reading Of Cupcakes and Progressivism’s Ratchet
Much of the work I do is in the area of regulation. It is always a challenge to convey how much the regulatory state has grown (yes, I know, we can count the pages in the Federal Register). Two scholars as the Mercatus Center (Patrick McLaughlin and Omar Al-Ubaydli) have developed RegData, a wonderful tool … Continue reading Charting Regulation
Images of warfare abound these days, from Syria, Gaza, northern Iraq...and Ferguson, MO. As Dylan Scott (TPM) notes, the images out of Ferguson have been “harrowing.” “American law enforcement decked out in military fatigues, patrolling the streets in armored vehicles that look like they were plucked out of Afghanistan or Iraq.” I have blogged in the … Continue reading The War at Home