Monday, July 30, 2012

Short: That incredible bond (marriage)

Watch this video. It is the eloquent defense of marriage by a lonely widow who misses "that incredible bond." She spoke when the Washington state legislature was debating extending marriage rights to same-sex couples. I hope you laugh and cry like I did.

Short: In the tank!

This story has so many angles that I like:
  • A wonky/techy aspect.
  • An encapsulation of a bigger political picture.
  • A story about the possible loss of manufacturing capability.
  • A quote that grabbed me because I know it's true from my own experience: [The workforce] “is not like a light switch. You can’t just click it off, then walk away for three years, come back and click it on.”
  • A big, noisy, amped-up aspect. 
I hope your curiosity is piqued.


Friday, July 27, 2012

What the rich owe us

Yes, you rich person, who either made a fortune or inherited one, you owe society. As Elizabeth Warren and President Obama have pointed out, you owe something to the society in which these riches were made.

That shouldn't be denied, though some people strenuously deny that society, or specifically government, provides much benefit to those who are trying to make a living. That's hogwash, of course. The rich are not self-sufficient. They rely on the commercial marketplace, public roads and utilities, customers, property rights enforced by police and courts, etc.

Fear Factor

Nonetheless, an unqualified statement that rich people owe society is frightening. The world has seen the rich plundered (along with the poor or the average), the rich guillotined, the rich sent to reeducation camps, etc. Even in this country we've had 90% income tax rates for the rich, which amounts to confiscation for those who aren't adept at tax avoidance.

It would be good if those who say that 'the rich owe society' show that they aren't planning to go down that slippery slope, because that is what will pop into the heads of a lot of people if they don't address the issue.

Reassurance Rates

What is effective reassurance? Giving a maximum tax rate would be somewhat reassuring, but it's not the best political optics. For people who know their effective tax rate or their tax bracket, the highest tax bracket of almost 40% sounds damn high. Besides, I think that tax bracket will break over the 40% threshold when the Obamacare taxes start being collected.

Perhaps it would be more palatable to talk in multiples of the usual payroll tax. I personally think that having highest earners paying income tax at a rate of 5 times the usual payroll tax doesn't sound terrible, especially if you quantify the other brackets too: 1.5 times the payroll tax, 2 times the payroll tax, 3 times the payroll tax, etc. (Note: I say the usual payroll tax to account for the Social Security tax rate cut we're currently having. Any tax holidays for payroll taxes shouldn't apply to the income tax rates.)


The best way to reassure taxpayers that you aren't out to soak the rich is to support a broad, fairly flat income tax structure. But that means committing to tax reform because our current tax structure isn't very flat and contains all sorts of loopholes for the wealthy and not-wealthy to reduce their tax burden. It also means being committed to finding ways to rein in spending, including entitlements. Because if you don't rein in spending (and growth in entitlements are the largest automatic spending hikes), then the US taxpayers know that you're going to be soaking the rich sooner or later.

So here's my declaration: I believe in the rich paying their fair share, and everyone else paying theirs too. And I'm not afraid to quantify what I mean by 'fair share.'

 My proposed tax rates

Fighting the Sequester/Defending it

The GOP has regretted the defense cuts they agreed to last August almost as soon as the ink was dry. Now  few Democrats are getting into it. Tom Harkin is cherry-picking cuts to vaccine programs to show how bad the sequester is. This commenter expressed some of my sentiment:
"The louder the politicians squeal about sequestration the better I like it." - WSJ comment
The comments were generally quite pro-sequester. That means the portion of the public that's paying attention is more realistic and pragmatic than the elected officials.

I've come to think that the sequester was the best Congressional action of 2011. They finally began to face the huge task of cutting the deficit. They also accepted, if only for a microsecond, that the pain was going to be spread broadly instead of being shoved onto the "other side."

I'm going to make a prediction. After Obama details the cuts, as the House and Senate are requiring him to do, there will be:
  1. A brief period of trumped-up outrage.
  2. Then a period of mellowing.
  3. Then general acceptance of the cuts as positive change in government, with a few remnants of dissent by the habitually outraged.

Not a workable solution

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Short: We like lies!

Classify this under unsurprising research: NPR (tax-supported liberal radio to some, the most detailed radio news to others) aired a story about how the public often prefers lies in support of their political opinions to the truth, at least from political candidates.

No, tell me it's not so! ...Except that anyone who examines media bias already knows this. However, here's an interesting counter opinion.

Give me what I want, not what I say I want.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Short: When you aren't the target audience

Bernstein had a great, timely reminder that the general public is not always the target audience for all parts of the campaign. He writes about the rumors that the Romney campaign is going to start 'vetting' Obama. By vetting, they mean it the way Breitbart meant it, which is digging up any past action or association that looks at all radical or socialist. "Palling around with terrorists" will make a resurgence.

However, this part of the campaign is not for general consumption, but a special mooshy dessert for the GOP loyalists who can't get enough of Obama as foreign agent provocateur. It'll run mostly on Fox and the conservative blogosphere, but not on the general airwaves in the swing states. At least, that's what I'm guessing. I don't live in a swing state, so I can't find out easily by turning on my TV anytime between Labor Day and Election Day. Ah, spared the excitement!


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Short: Patty Murray shows she's a hack

If the Harry Reid is smart (and I think he is), he's probably gotten Patty Murray to stop saying that the Dems are happy to go over the fiscal cliff because it will give them better leverage in 2013. It's not as dumb as the Teapublicans in the House proclaiming that they won't raise the debt ceiling, but it's in the same ballpark, and no senator should be there.

As an elected representative in a party that hopes to do OK in the next election, Murray shouldn't be saying that she's OK with people taking a major hit in their paychecks. You don't want to spite everyone to get leverage in a negotiation. The GOP was doing that last July over the debt ceiling, as it wasn't good for their favorability ratings. Did Murray somehow learn the lesson backwards?

Now I'll be looking for the signs that some of the Dems senators took her to the woodshed and made sure she learned the lesson right this time.

 Patty Murray needs a minder...

Boxed into a corner

That's what the GOP, and particular Romney, have done to themselves. Here is a list of campaign issues they can't talk about:
  1. The impending end of Bush tax cuts
  2. The impending sequester
  3. Long-term plans to reduce the deficit
  4. Short-term plans to reduce the deficit
  5. Details of the GOP jobs plan
  6. Tax reform
  7. The replacement for Obamacare
  8. Entitlement reform
  9. American workers
  10. Abortion
  11. Supreme Court nominees
These leaves some topics, but not many neutral ones where the GOP takes a turn presenting its proposals, and the Dems take their turn. To be fair, the Dems can't talk about their jobs plan very much, tax reform, or much about entitlement reform either.

Here are a bunch of neutral topics where the Dems have a good chance to win the round:
  1. The Bush tax cuts
  2. Short-term plans to reduce the deficit
  3. Social Security
  4. Health insurance in a jumpy economy
  5. The fiscal cliff
Here are some neutral topics that the GOP might win:
  1. Energy policies
  2. Government regulation
  3. Government workers
 Better cards
It looks to me like the Dems are holding the better cards. They may not be face-cards, but the GOP's cards look like deuces for the most part. If one party talks mostly about:
  • energy policy and drilling,
and the other party talks about:
  •  deficit reduction, who keeps their tax cuts, and healthcare security,
the audience is going to gravitate to the more important, sexier, or scarier topics, and it ain't gonna be oil rigs and smokestack scrubbers.

Of course the GOP would love to avoid neutral topics altogether, and focus on blaming Obama for all the ills of the country. But that doesn't seem to be working, even after the dismal jobs reports this summer. Today, Gallup has Obama topping Romney 48% to 43%.

 Can't make it stick
It's not as though Obama is suddenly the teflon president (guffaw). Actually, there never was such a thing. It's just the frustration of opponents that more people aren't buying their arguments. Probably most people have decided how much Obama owns the bad economy, and it's going to be hard to convince many people that he deserves a heap more blame.

I think I've run the speculation steeple chase as far as I can. Does this theorizing stand up at all? You tell me.


By the way, here are the negatives that will keep the GOP from talking about those 11 topics:
  1. If the rich lose their tax cuts, you'll lose yours. Fair is fair.
  2. We can't cut defense--anything or everything, but not defense!
  3. We'll grow out of the deficit by the great year 2050.
  4. Yes, we'll cut the deficit, we just can't tell you how yet.
  5. Oil jobs, gas jobs, more oil jobs, and a huge spurt from deregulation.
  6. Yes, we'll make the tax code fairer, we just can't tell you how yet.
  7. Replace? Who said replace?
  8. Yes, we'll reform entitlements, we just can't tell you how yet.
  9. Workers, pay no attention to the man who did the auto bailout. He's not your friend.
  10. Don't worry, we won't touch abortion for the middle class. Promise.
  11. We need more justices like Roberts (the cute one), Scalia (the angry gnome), and Thomas (the mummified black conservative).
  12. What did I skip? Real issues, no propaganda allowed.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The shrinking campaign battleground

Perhaps readers think that my jeering at Romney means that I have abandoned my moderate demeanor, and I'm turning into a Democrat partisan, and maybe always was.

I suppose it's a possibility, but I don't think so. I've always felt that people need to deal with the consequences of their actions, and Romney is reaping what he sowed.

Limited Battleground

Romney could have made this a campaign on issues and plans with honest analysis of where the country is, how it got there, and what to do in the future. Instead he chose to say that Obama knows nothing about the economy, but he does. Furthermore, Romney chose not to present a specific detailed plan that could be the focus of his campaign, but to run on his experience as a businessman. He has narrowed the ground on which this campaign will be fought, and now he has to deal with it.

So, how about Mitt? Are you ready to open up this contest and talk about economics and fiscal policy and real budget numbers, or do you want to fight on the narrow strip you've laid out?

Of course Romney would rather have the whole campaign revolve around Obama's mishandling of the economy, and Obama's high unemployment numbers, and Obama's budget deficit.

Well, he can't run a campaign as the invisible man or some mystical anti-Obama, because the Americans who still think don't believe in magic. The same problems are going to there on Day One of the next presidential term. If Romney wants to be in that office, he needs to show what he'll do and convince us that it will be better than what Obama is offering.

That isn't too high a bar--show us you're better than the other guy. Don't just say it. SHOW. US. Something.

At this Romney has been a failure. He still has time to reverse that failure, but I don't see the signs that he'll do it. On the other hand, his strategy might be enough to win him the office. But what a threadbare victory it would be.

Come on, Mitt, Show us something.

Is Romney even in this campaign?

Extra: For a longer list of don't-go-there topics, see this post.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Short: Election ping-pong

So, the Obama campaign released an H-bomb ad slamming Mitt Romney on outsourcing jobs and having overseas accounts--you know, stuff we already knew about. I don't know why it's made such a big splash, but it has.

Romney's rejoinder:
“He sure as heck ought to say that he’s sorry for the kinds of attacks that are coming from his team.”

Obama's rejoinder:
“No, we won’t be apologizing... Mr. Romney claims he’s Mr. Fix-It for the economy because of his business experience, so I think voters entirely legitimately want to know what is exactly his business experience.”

It sounds like Obama was ready with an answer and Romney wasn't.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pot, meet kettle

You know it's not good when a campaign has to fall back on a blanket defense, such as "that's unAmerican" or the current Romney defense "he's lying about my [Bain] record."

Come on, we all know that outraged claims of ‘lies’ are just the pot calling the kettle black. I’m not going to vote for one candidate over the other because I think one lies and the other doesn’t. I’m not 7 years old. Most adults and all presidential candidates lie to a certain extent. We can't precisely measure the extent of the lying, so it has to be a whopper to move the needle. Is there anyone who doesn't recognize that this is the reality of campaigning? If so, cast the first stone.

When it comes to pointing fingers at who is the bigger outsourcer, Romney is going to lose. He certainly isn’t the pioneer of outsourcing, but Bain, like lots of companies, did a great deal of it.

It sucks to lose a news meme. The GOP has lost this cycle, and will need and want to come up with a winning line soon. I wonder what it will be…

Maybe it's all recycled from previous campaigns...


Update 7/15/12. I just remembered a relevant point. Obama kept a lot of jobs in the US with the auto bailout. Yep, the one Romney was against. This line of campaigning is only going to get worse for Mitt.

The end of candidate moderation

Is this the first  presidential campaign where we don't see any candidate moderating his position for the general election? It appears that way to me.

In 2008, McCain became a bit more conservative, but Obama didn't become more liberal. In this election, it seems that neither Obama nor Romney have moderated their positions. Of course, from my moderate viewpoint, this development sucks.

Why isn't this truism operating in this election? My guess is that neither party feels that moderation has been a net positive for them. The Republicans blame moderation and accommodation with those dang liberals for the ballooning deficits during the Bush presidency (and they ignore minor stuff like the wars and tax cuts). The Democrats found out that moderation didn't bring the Republicans to the bargaining table or voters to the polls in the midterm elections. Moderation just hasn't had a good track record for the last, oh, 12 years.

I stick with moderation because... uh, temperament... because zealots are a bunch of wackos who spout extremely stupid arguments? That's probably close to the truth. I can't bear to be a zipperhead repeating idiotic talking points and trying to make facts fit the preconceived argument. I'll leave that to everyone else in the US if I have to, and be a lonely moderate banging on my keyboard and waiting to see if these zealots make as big a mess as I think they will. Sigh.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Injustice from the justices

Phew. I think this will be my last post on the Obamacare ruling. I've worked through the vast majority of my ideas. There were a lot: 
This post is about the reaction from the close colleagues of Chief Justice Roberts. 

Departure from normal standards
The Supreme Court is an insular institution. The justices don't have the electoral pressures that require most politicians to communicate with the public and explain their actions. Also, leaks of insider information from the Court are rare. So this case is a major exception, which adds another layer of oddity to this decision.

The leak was made to Jan Crawford, a CBS reporter who's scored important interviews with several justices. Her first article told about how Roberts initially agreed with the four conservative justices to strike down the health insurance mandate, but during the course of writing the opinion he found grounds to uphold it, thus siding with the liberal justices.

 Is this inside report credible? Yes.
I don't automatically credit this article as factual. However, some of the reporting is backed up by information in the Court's 193-page ruling. Ms Crawford writes:
And so the conservatives handed him their own message which, as one justice put it, essentially translated into, "You're on your own." The conservatives refused to join any aspect of his opinion, including sections with which they agreed...
This is absolutely borne out by the ruling. Roberts writes how the mandate cannot be upheld under the Commerce Clause. The four conservative justices agree, but express that opinion separately instead of in a concurrence with Roberts. 

Determining the Viewpoint of the Leak
Since the report passes at least one test of credibility, I'm inclined to believe that it's an accurate report. However, it's a report that comes from a particular viewpoint. Considering that it gives details about the interaction of the conservative justices among themselves and with Chief Justice Roberts, it evidently came from a conservative justice or sources close to conservative justices. 

The article contains speculation (whose we don't know) that Roberts was influenced by outside pressures, not only considerations of law and constitutionality:
Over the next six weeks, as Roberts began to craft the decision striking down the mandate, the external pressure began to grow. Roberts almost certainly was aware of it... Some of the conservatives, such as Justice Clarence Thomas, deliberately avoid news articles on the court when issues are pending... But Roberts pays attention to media coverage. As chief justice, he is keenly aware of his leadership role on the court, and he also is sensitive to how the court is perceived by the public.

Does this information come from John Roberts himself? I doubt it. It sounds like someone's analysis of his actions and motives, not his own self-explanation. The article is filled with observations from the viewpoint of one or more conservative justices:
At least one conservative justice tried to get him to explain it, but was unsatisfied with the response, according to a source with knowledge of the conversation.
Note the view here is from one of the conservative justices. It's not Roberts' viewpoint of the incident, or that of a liberal justice, nor it is likely to be the report of an unbiased fly-on-the-wall. One last example:
"He was relentless," one source said of Kennedy's efforts. "He was very engaged in this." ...Roberts then engaged in his own lobbying effort - trying to persuade at least Justice Kennedy to join his decision so the Court would appear more united in the case. There was a fair amount of give-and-take with Kennedy and other justices, the sources said. One justice, a source said, described it as "arm-twisting."
Anger of the Right(eous)
In another, shorter article, Ms. Crawford writes about the anger of the conservative justices:
If Roberts had been with the liberals from the beginning, sources tell me that would have been one thing; but switching his position - and relatively late in the process - infuriated the conservatives. ...Of course it's unclear why he switched. He may have been focused solely on the law. But that is not what some of his colleagues believe.
The picture that emerges is one of intense anger clothed in restraint. Restraint is certainly to be expected from the highest judges in the country. However, the level of anger is surprising. Why can't the conservative justices accept this as a good faith difference of opinion?

The level of their anger is indicated by their refusal to formally concur with Roberts' opinion on the limits of the Commerce Clause. He went against their view, so he received the force of their righteous anger: if you're one of us, you better stay one of us. No allowance for difference of opinion.

The next court term could be mighty interesting if these justices continue behaving this way. Let's hope they cool off during the summer, because they are stuck together in these lifetime appointments. Beyond that, I personally hope to see continued independence from Roberts. I'm rooting for anyone who'll break out of the armed-camp mentality of the politics in this country. 


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Short: A conservative gives up on Romney

I don't know B-list conservatives from C or D-listers, so maybe this guy is a complete crank. However, he wants "to see Mitt Romney spat out of the body politic, once and for all." Yet, he doesn't name whom he rather have as Republican nominee. When you don't have an embarrassment of riches, sometimes you end up with just the embarrassments.

Score one on one of my predictions

Back in February, I predicted that opposition research into Romney would find its best treasure trove in Bain Capital. However, the fruits of the research wouldn't come out until the general election.

Now, political ads on Bain Capital are hurting Romney. There are also other question on how he amassed huge amounts in his IRA account. Technically, we aren't yet in the general election, but yes we are in a way. We know Romney will be the GOP nominee, so now's the time for that juicy op-research to be revealed. What will we learn? I'm not usually a gossip, but I'm hoping for something truer and more interesting than Obama introducing the non-radical Derek Bell.


The obscure motives of John Roberts

Conservatives can't understand why Roberts deserted them when deciding that the Obamacare mandate was constitutional. Only a few take his opinion at face value as "a fully plausible case." Here's a list of the some of the reasons conservatives suggest for Roberts' betrayal:
  1. Roberts was prone to political pressure, but other justices aren't
  2. The liberal media was pushing the idea that the court was political and that it was a political choice to overturn this liberal legislation, and Roberts folded under the pressure
  3. The president humiliated the justices at the State of the Union address, and Roberts caved under this pressure.
  4. Roberts saved the court from charges of political division and helped salvage the reputation of the court, but at the cost of deciding the issue on constitutional grounds.
  5. Roberts saved the court from charge of political division so the court can be even more conservative in its next term.
  6. Roberts was bribed or blackmailed, and there really should be an investigation of this most foul crime.
  7. The jinxed theory - Several supposedly conservative justices have turned moderate or even liberal, but not the other way.
  8. Here's an even longer list, if you aren't tired already.

Critiques of (some of) the theories

#2. The belief that he was intimidated by the liberal media is laughable. There are enough conservatives around so he wouldn't feel outnumbered. He's shown no signs before of being intimidated before, even on a big case like Citizens United. No, this speculation smacks of "blame the media" overreach. The idea that a lifetime appointee to the highest court in the country will be meek and wishy-washy, and base a ruling on gabbing bloggers, reporters, and anchors is crazy. The justice may be beholden to the president who nominated him or a particularly strong senate supporter, but to the media in our fragmented news age?  Come on.

#4. People who generally like John Roberts want to ascribe a noble motive, and the favorite choice is that  he wanted to salvage the reputation of the court by not striking down this highly political program. The supporters of this theory are at least moderate in their criticism, instead of being in the "string him up" camp. They are also realistic in acknowledging the specter of Bush v. Gore.

#6. This a black helicopters/jackboots/demonic-Democratic party conspiracy theory that will be impossible to disprove even when there's absolutely no evidence. So it must be true.

#7. The 'jinx' theory is more a superstition than a logical theory. However, it's a particular favorite of mine. It seems odd that only the good ones (conservatives) become possessed, never the bad ones being possessed by good spirits.  However, back in reality, there's a different explanation: Souter was always moderate; O'Connor was always a woman, and women will see some things differently; Kennedy reportedly has a libertarian streak; Earl Warren--I don't know.

Slippery Logic

All the theories ignore the opinion itself, which lays out the logical reasons for his choices, including precedents on which he relied. As I've said before, these positions are logical, both pro and con. It's not as though one is clearly logical and the other illogical. Instead, it's a matter of how much value you put on this argument versus that one, this outcome vs. that one.

I'm Guilty too

I offered my own theory--that Roberts wanted to salvage some of the Obamacare law, and only the liberals would then talk with him. Who knows, and would they tell us? Probably not, but I'm used to unsolved mysteries and truth that remains hidden. Speculation is OK as long as it's treated as such. I wonder in six months whether there will be any buzz at all about this issue. I hope so, because I believe the Supreme Court is too political, and I'd like to see the dynamic change even more. Oops, now I've really set myself up for disappointment... again. It's the bane of the optimist.

They forgot to look here for the reasons.

 PS. I haven't exhausted my thoughts on the ACA ruling yet. I hope others share my fascination with this twist in American politics and jurisprudence.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Judicial activism (or not) in the Obamacare ruling

Most people don't want to wade through the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare, and I don't blame them. I couldn't read the whole thing (193 pages) either. However, here is my attempt, based on what I did read, to lay out the arguments the justices found compelling.

Both arguments have very strong points. The dissent skewers the devices the majority used to maintain the legislation (starting at p.142), specifically turning the mandate/penalty into a tax, despite the fact that the legislation wasn't written as a tax.

Chief Justice Roberts, writing only for himself, points out that the Court doesn't overturn legislation lightly and that the precedent is that "every reasonable construction must be resorted to, in order to save a statute from unconstitutionality" (p. 3). He found that the power to tax was a reasonable argument. The liberal justices didn't agree with his reasoning, but agreed with the upshot, which was that the mandate could stay.

The minority doesn't actually refute the argument that Court should try to find a any to uphold Congress's laws. Instead, they hammer away at how the law created what looks and acts like a penalty, so it not should be interpreted as a tax. They also cite precedents for why the law must be judged as is rather than 'adjusted' to squeak by on the constitutionality question.

As in so many contentious issues, there isn't a single argument that blows away the rest of them. I support the argument that the law goes too far for justification under the Commerce Clause. But my support isn't based on knowledge the Commerce Clause precedents--it's more like me saying "Sounds reasonable to me."

Beyond the legal logic in the opinion, I'm fascinated that Chief Justice Roberts would square the circle rather than throw out this law. He hasn't been as respectful of other laws. This opinion could easily have gone the other way, and I don't see a strong reason why it didn't.

For all the speculation on why Roberts ruled as he did, see my next post.
Roberts' decision process

Update 7/9/12. Here's an interesting critique of Roberts' mistakes. This critique inadvertently supplied me with another point in favor of Roberts' ruling: that capitation taxes (a per-head tax) are constitutional, and that this kind of tax is constitutional a "shared responsibility."

My interpretation: we all have healthcare expenses in this country, so carry insurance, get one of the limited waivers, or pay a tax. I can believe that would be constitutional.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Short: The Wall Street Journal on Romney

There's a fair amount of buzz about a WSJ editorial criticizing Romney as a campaigner. It levels several charges against him:
  • His campaign is disorganized.
  • He's clinging to the Massachusetts mandate as OK.
  • He isn't clearly explaining what his policies would be and why they'd be better.
  • He isn't being a good spokesman for the GOP vision of better government.
Liberal critics of Romney are naturally enjoying the opportunity to repeat the WSJ criticism of Romney. However, they invariably leave out the best advice to Romney, even those who quote the article at length. This is the clincher advice that liberals prefer to ignore:
Mr. Romney should use the Supreme Court opinion as an opening to ... show voters that Mr. Obama's spending ambitions are so vast that they can't be financed solely by the wealthy but will inevitably hit the middle class. 
To me that sounds like a good, solid point. What is keeping journalists from repeating that part of the editorial? It couldn't be partisanship or media bias, could it?


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Roberts sided with flexibility

Everyone was thrown for a loop last Thursday when Chief Justice John Roberts was the swing vote in the 5-4 decision upholding most of Obamacare, and changing just the penalty if a state opts out of expanding Medicaid.

Since then, John Roberts has been massively reviled by conservatives, who immediately started calling him a RINO, traitor, wimp, etc. However, I noticed that Roberts worked with the justices who were willing to show flexibility. The four dissenters (Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Stevens) wanted to throw out the entire law--every single part. It seems that Roberts saw parts of it that were within constitutional bounds and he wanted to allow those parts to continue, which is reasonable because the law was passed by duly elected officials.

Since the conservatives weren't willing to let any of the law survive, Roberts was driven into the arms of the liberals, who didn't take an all-or-nothing stand. They didn't force Roberts to except the mandate as within the rights of Congress under the Commerce Clause. Instead, they joined in allowing it on taxing authority. This argument had been made in court, so it wasn't an invention of the justices. The liberal justices also gave in to severing the Medicaid expansion from the penalty for not expanding (loss of all Medicaid money).

This is a rare win for flexibility, but a terrific one. Conservatives and the GOP should take a lesson.


Extras: Most cited insider article; a bit long but fascinating throughout. Many legal opinions from a law site. The text (193 pages) of the ruling.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What is slowing the economy: Low demand, not Dems

First the apology and the explanation. This is the first post that I totally lost, despite some effort to save it. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to try to reconstruct the whole thing. Instead I'll give just an outline. Sorry about that, but I'll keep all the highlights. (Unless my prose was the highlight for you, which I don't think is likely.) Here goes. The post roughly said:
  • The GOP blames regulation, current poor Dem policies, and uncertainty over healthcare and taxes for lack of higher growth in private enterprise.
  • However, this GOP talking point wasn't based on this survey, which showed that lack of demand is the biggest problem for businesses.
  • It's not surprising if investors aren't spending or investing that much after the rollercoaster of 2007-2008. They're holding on the cash that they have.
  • This situation won't last forever as long as the economy doesn't tank again. Eventually physical needs will push people and investors to spend more, and the uptick in spending will nudge the business cycle into an upward trend.
  • Please don't try to goose demand with low interest rates from the Fed forever, a big stimulus, more tax cuts, etc. Those haven't worked to build demand, and they'll just make the deficit worse or have other negative consequences.

Monday, July 2, 2012

More about Fast and Furious than you ever heard from Congress

I've been slightly interested in the Fast and Furious newstory, but not very much.  Here's my quick assessment: it looked like an ill-conceived program conducted at a low level of government, but is being exploited  to smear higher-level officials. It might be more interesting as a sign of the divide in news reporting, where conservative media are running the story 10 times as much as MSM.

Now, based on a tip from a plain blog comment, I started reading some of the details about the people involved in the operation. It's interesting to read about the gun situation in Arizona, the difficulty in getting charges against gun runners, and infighting in the ATF office that made this blow up in the national media.

Also interesting are the facts that different players emphasize and what is left out. Compare and contrast the facts in Fortune's The Truth about the Fast and Furious Scandal and the facts in a conservative blog post Fast and Furious: 22 Shocking Facts about the Scandal That Could Bring Down the Obama Administration.

I'm not going to try to meticulously sort truth from spin in these articles, because my quick assessment seems accurate in the light of additional research. If there is a scandal here, it's how easy it is to purchase guns and hand them over to unsavory people. That seems to be the root of the problem and the reason for the ATF operations, but I'm not going to start a vain campaign for tighter gun control.

However, I will point out when the facts are skewed. Truth is something I'll fight for anytime.

Arizona gun store: Bulk sales are our right

  • Conservative news blog implicates a prosecutor who contributed to Obama. Lots of detail.
  • This conservative blog points out what might be the most egregious action in the F+F operation--agents asking gun dealers to sell to customers they'd otherwise turn away.  Also supported by the LA Times.
  • This post attacks an author, and points out some interesting numbers. Makes me wonder--how many guns did the operation allow into Mexico, and how many guns end up there without the ATF knowing? Is anyone interested in both numbers, or only the number that supports their established viewpoint?
  • The only (legal) Mexican gun store.