the problem* with republicans, in one sentence

"A fiscal conservative puts living within one's means as the core priority; the current GOP believes that defunding the government should be the core priority."

--Andrew Sullivan

*OK, not THE problem...


where the deficit comes from

(from Sunday's NYT)

A couple of few thoughts:

1) Health care reform under Obama is just over 1/10th the cost of Bush's wars. Remind me when the Tea Party started?

2) The projections are probably too kind to Mr. Obama. He has 1.5 (or 5.5) more years to add new policies that aren't even on the graph yet.

3) That said, I really am less interested in which proportion of the deficit can be laid at which president's feet than I am in noting that the single largest contributor--the Bush tax cuts--seems to have been taken completely off the table. Personally, I dislike the mentality that categorizes tax cuts as "expenditures". But that's really beside the point...the deficit is not merely a spending problem, but a spending and revenue problem. More revenue has to be part of the solution.

4) If you add Bush's and Obama's stimulus spending together including the stimulus tax cuts under Obama (and I think you should, for the purpose of analyzing the effect of policy rather than scoring political points), that is the single biggest contributor to the deficit.


what a fiscal conservative actually looks like

(Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, on his way to a press conference. Yes, he actually does this, and not just for the cameras. Photo by Hugger Industries, generously shared via CC license.)

Seattle has plenty of problems. But its bond rating isn't one of them:

Mayor Mike McGinn's budget director Beth Goldberg introduced several proposals for replenishing and strengthening the Revenue Stabilization Account, the city's "rainy day" fund, which now stands at $11.2 million, down from a high of $30 million in 2008. The proposals include dedicating 0.5 percent of all general revenue tax receipts to the fund, along with half of all end-of-year fund balances in excess of that forecast. The rainy day fund is capped by law at 5 percent of annual general revenue tax receipts, currently about $37.5 million, and the goal would be to rebuild the reserves toward that maximum amount...

...it turns out that fiscal prudence like this has served the city well, enabling it to preserve its AAA bond rating throughout the Great Recession, even as some other municipal governments teeter on the brink of insolvency...

So yeah, Mayor McGinn is a tree-hugging/bike-riding/tunnel-hating/closet-San-Franciscan, but when it comes to fiscal matters, it turns out he's rather, well, conservative compared to say, the debt-addled speculators running the foundering Seattle Times. Even McGinn's opposition to the deep bore tunnel—an obsession that some have used to label him a goofy liberal—is largely based on fiscal concerns: That it is too expensive, provides too little benefit for the cost, and poses an unacceptably high risk to tax payers.

I know this portrait of McGinn as a fiscally responsible budgeter runs counter to caricature, but it's hard to argue otherwise.

What works in Seattle may not work everywhere else. But it is an example worth comparing to say, certain would-be presidential candidates that want you to believe that they are "fiscal conservatives".


the other marriage debate

While I agree with everything Steve Chapman says here, it seems to me that he neglects the most obvious legal argument of all.

When it comes to sexual relationships and cohabitation among consenting adults, Utah takes a permissive approach. If a guy wants to shack up with a lady, that's fine. If he wants to shack up with several, no problem. He can father children by different roommates, with no fear of the law.

But if he marries one woman and represents three others as his "spiritual wives," like Kody Brown? Then he's committed a felony. Not because of the stuff that goes on behind closed doors. It's the public act of claiming to be part of a lifelong "plural marriage" that raises the specter of jail...

In challenging the law, they can cite implicit support from the Supreme Court. In a 2003 decision striking down a Texas ban on homosexual sodomy, Justice Anthony Kennedy granted a wide berth to intimate relationships.

I don't really see what Lawrence v. Texas has to do with this. Or rather, citing that case seems completely superfluous. Utah's law literally bans a man from referring to more than one woman as his "spiritual wife". Isn't that speech? And doesn't the very concept of a "spiritual wife" fall squarely under the purview of "free exercise"? That's a First Amendment slam-dunk, two times over.

Presumably polygamists have been reluctant to take this approach because they'd rather just stay off the state and federal governments' radars. And given their history, I can't say that I blame them. But still...it seems like this wouldn't be a terribly difficult case to argue.


the bachmann family business

I have an increasingly perverse desire to see Michele Bachmann win the GOP nomination. Because it would really put some sunshine on shit like this:

Marcus [Bachmann] is a non-certified Christian therapist who operates a clinic called Bachmann & Associates, which has been accused of practicing "reparative" therapy to supposedly turn gay people straight. It's a practice that's been rejected by every major psychologial and psychiatric organization, but given Marcus Bachmann's assertions that gays need to be "educated" like "barbarians," that doesn't seem like a deal-breaker. Marcus has previously denied that the clinic is involved in "reparative" therapy while conceding that his clinic would, hypothetically, be open to that kind of thing, but only if a patient specifically asked to be cured.

I suppose if an adult of his or her own volition decides to spend money on a cure that doesn't work for a disease that doesn't exist, that's their own damn problem. But it doesn't make the so-called "therapist" any less of a despicable charlatan.

Few things inspire my contempt more than people using religion as an excuse for their own bigotry. But pseudoscience and fraud come in close behind.


ron paul is not running for reelection

...to his congressional seat.

"I have decided not to seek re-election for my House seat in 2012 and will focus all of my energy winning the presidency. My hometown newspaper, 'The Facts' will be running the exclusive story very shortly."

My prediction: Paul knows he isn't going to win the GOP nomination, the lackluster performance of the field at large notwithstanding. He is positioning himself for a Libertarian/other 3rd party/independent run in the general.

Not a bad way to end a storied career in US politics, I guess. As I've mentioned, I like Paul as a lone voice of sanity in congress, but I don't think he'd make a good president. He does have the opportunity to be Ross Perot to Obama's Bill Clinton...which frankly, a GOP that is not serious about governing richly deserves.


"Nearly all children nowadays were horrible. What was worst of all was that by means of such organizations as the Spies they were systematically turned into ungovernable little savages, and yet this produced in them no tendency whatever to rebel against the discipline of the Party. On the contrary, they adored the Party and everything connected with it... All their ferocity was turned outwards, against the enemies of the State, against foreigners, traitors, saboteurs, thought-criminals. It was almost normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their own children."

- George Orwell, 1984, Book 1, Chapter 2

One more reason not to breed:

Authorities say a Utah man was arrested after his two children called police to report that he had marijuana in the house.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports the man was charged Tuesday with two third-degree felony charges of child endangerment and one class B misdemeanor accusing him of possession of a controlled substance.

The homeschoolers really do have a point, don't they?

"the smoking barrel of our thanks"

Wilkinson's still got it:

It makes me sick to think about. Would his life have been wasted like this if Americans did not so strenuously insist on lying to one another about what it is our military men and women really do? Who does it help to continue to so effusively thank Matthew Nielson’s luckier comrades for their service and our freedom? Our gratitude is a rain of grenades over the senior high. Bright-eyed American boys and girls stare smiling down the smoking barrel of our thanks, dying to please.

Not really sure I completely share the sentiment myself, but damn if that isn't some lovely, awful prose.


guest post

by Dave

I'm a Naval Officer. It is a decent-paying gig. But the best part is--for me--retirement is only 6 years away.

It may come to a surprise to some readers that I will start receiving a life-long fixed-benefit pension when I am 42 years old.

In the US, military retirement pay is triggered by 20 years of active service. As currently constituted, a military retiree receives 50% of his base pay and full medical for himself and his dependents ("dependents" is military talk for spouse and kids under 18 ... or 23 if they are in college). Serve 19 years and 11 months, and you get nothing. But once you get to 20, the benefits last for life. Stay on active duty past 20 and the percentages increase ... my dad retired after approximately 30 years and got 75% of his base pay instead of 50%, and his base pay after an extra decade was substantially higher. When my dad developed a brain tumor, essentially the entire medical bill was born by the government. His untimely death was not a financial windfall for the government; because he had agreed to take a somewhat smaller monthly payment, the government now pays a portion of his pension to my mom, who will continue to draw payments (and receive full medical benefits) until her death, or the unlikely event she were to remarry.

That system is bound to end, and I think it is going to end quite quickly. I would say it will end much quicker than the military sub-culture expects, except that the military has no sense that it is even in question.

I've tried to explain this to military co-workers. Almost to a man, my arguments are dismissed in a cloud of entitlement-fueled self-delusion. The military sub-culture, lulled to sleep by repeated chants of "thank you for your service," really expects that in the upcoming budget fight that its stake will be protected by an appreciative middle class. They're in a for a rude awakening.

I generally dislike the "thank you for your service" comments, but I never express my discomfort. And I generally believe that the people who express their appreciation generally mean what they say. But as the federal coffers run empty, politicians will decide whose benefits get cut, and thus the decisions will be inherently political. And military members, prevented (properly) from organizing politically, will find themselves unrepresented and ignored in the political process. And once the Afghanistan and Iraq adventures finally wrap up, the yellow ribbons will go away and an increasingly grumpy and nervous middle class will view 20-year pensions as an unreasonable and unaffordable threat to their financial security. We're already seeing local discussions that relatively generous pensions for police are unaffordable ... once the wars end it is only a matter of time until those sentiments are transferred to the military. The middle class primarily values economic security (understandable I suppose if you have a 30 year mortgage) and will support military pay only until it is perceived as a threat to its collective benefits. Robert Gates stated that the US can have a welfare state or be a world power. Britain faced the same choice after WW2 and ditched their empire with remarkable speed. Until now, the US was able to avoid such a choice due to a combination of economic advantages and borrowing. As that comes to an end, there is no reason to think that the US population won't make the same choice the British did.

Discussions about whether military members deserve their retirement pay largely miss the point. Politicians will cut benefits based on short-term political calculations, not moral considerations. And the military class, largely separated from the general population and and feeling quite entitled to public deference after a decade of "support the troops" rhetoric, will be shocked, and will not be happy. The consequences ... perhaps a discussion for another day.


and what have you (or i) done in the last 10 years?

This is the best news I've heard in a long time:

I’m in Monticello, Mississippi, this morning, where Circuit Court Judge Prentiss Harrell has just signed a plea agreement between Cory Maye and the state. Maye has plead guilty to a reduced charged of manslaughter, and has been resentenced to 10 years in prison, time he has already served. He’ll be sent to Rankin County for processing. He should be released and home with his family in a matter of days.

Unrelenting investigative reporting by Mr. Balko has literally saved a man's life, and now helped win him his freedom.

Background here: