Browsing the archives for the US Politics category.

Socialists – in the United States – almost [?] winning office in major cities. When’s the last time that happened?

Politics, US Elections, US Politics

While the attention of most American journalists and politigeeks on Tuesday was justifiably focused on the state-level races in Virginia and New Jersey, there was an array of other state and local elections in the US too, including mayoral elections in range of major cities. Even further down into the weeds, however, was an unlikely feature.


Real, dyed-in-the-wool, third-party revolutionary socialists, almost winning office in major cities. When’s the last time that happened? Sixty years ago?

In Seattle, a Socialist called Kshama Sawant came very close to winning a city council seat, getting 47.6% of the vote (some 56 thousand of ’em) in the race for City of Seattle Council Position No. 2. In the lead, as the counting of mail-in ballots continues, is a Democrat, Richard Conlin, but right now he’s winning it with just 52.2% of the vote. The margin (which was 53.6% vs 46.1% on election night) has been somewhat narrowing since as mail-in ballots that were sent in closer to the election are counted, and Sawant has not conceded yet. [Update, Nov. 7: Sawant is now up to 48.3% and some 62 thousand vote, and her campaign is actually claiming that “victory is within reach”.] [Update 2, Nov.12: Eight days after the elections took place, with the counting process still continuing, Kshama Sawant has for the first time actually pulled into a lead. Even if it’s the narrowest of leads. The tally is now: Sawant with 49.91% – 79751 votes; Conlin: with 49.88% – 79710 votes. The counting isn’t done yet; the vote won’t be certified until Nov. 26. But this is an impressive feat – and a crazy race.]

In Minneapolis, a Socialist called Ty Moore received 37.5% of the vote in the elections for a city council seat there. It was a much smaller race, though, with Moore getting 1,565 votes. Democrat Alondra Cano is ahead in that race, having received 40.7% of the vote (1,696 votes). Since neither won over 50% of the vote, this means nobody was elected yet, though Cano looks best positioned to win it.

These are not some kind of Francois Hollande-type ‘Socialists’ either. These are revolutionary socialists, affiliated to a Trotskyite party. They mean it, man.

 Kshama Sawant supporter

Photo: @VoteSawant

In Seattle, the Democrat who did win the seat [or did he? See update above], Richard Conlin, is apparently pretty progressive himself – a local station calls him “a darling of the Democratic party with left-leaning views”. Which makes it all the more surprising/impressive that Sawant got as far as she did. According to the city’s archivist, no socialist ever was this close to winning a city council position in Seattle – even including the halcyon days when Eugene Debs won 10%+ in the Western states (and over 20% in Snohomish County, next door to Seattle).

No wonder, maybe, that it’s not just those who actively supported her, but more neutral observers too, who argue that she might have won even if she loses. A sitting councilman quoted in the KUOW link above remarked that “My hope is that she doesn’t disappear after the election if she loses; she represents the poor, the immigrants, the refugees – the folks who are not in our City Council offices lobbying us.”

In Minneapolis, officially the race is still open. Instead of organizing a second round election, in the city’s Australian-style system of instant-runoff voting the vote counters will now redistribute the votes for each of the minor candidates who pooled the remainder of the votes, according to the second preferences indicated by their voters. And they’ll keep doing that until one of the frontrunners hits a majority.

Since all but one of the also-rans were Democrats, however, I guess that makes it likely that Cano will win. The exception is a progressive-sounding candidate running under a “Politics with Principle” label – there was no Republican in the race – and he received 8% of the vote. But if his voters were perhaps inclined to give Ty Moore their second preference, they will in turn probably be outweighed by those of Abdi Abdulle, who received 7% of the vote and whose website touts Cano’s recommendation to give Abdulle second preference votes. I assume it would be hard to guess where voters go since Cano is no conservadem either, even if she was endorsed by the local Start Tribune for being “the pragmatist” in the field; she presents herself as a union-endorsed progressive.

Ty Moore campaign sign

Photo: @JuveMeza

We will know soon enough – right now, the city is retabulating the mayoral election results, and Moore’s Ward 9 will be the second race being tallied up in full after that. (Update: retabulating the results of the 35 candidates who took part in the mayoral election took so much time, work on the remaining races will be continued on Friday.) But considering that Cano has more second preferences as well as first choices than Ty Moore, there would have to be some kind of very lopsided proportions in how the voters of the two candidates exchanged second preferences for each other’s candidate for Moore to pull it out.

[Update: The second and third preferences of the also-rans have now been retabulated, and Cano won, padding her lead over Moore a bit more: the end result is 47.6% vs 42.1%.  The remainder consists of ‘exhausted ballots’ from voters who had neither Cano nor Moore as second or third preference, or didn’t indicate any. The retabulations were all done in one go, so we don’t know how the votes for Curtis (the “Politics with Principle” guy), Abdulle and the others divided up individually, but altogether Cano got 289 of them, Moore 189, while a rather massive 434 of them were ‘exhausted’.]

Personally, I am no particular fan of Trotskyites; I have little sympathy for communists in general. They have done untold harm in my adopted home country, and many other countries alike. I personally feel that “1917” subverted and misdirected much of the socialist movements that had been growing in influence, and plagued it ever since. But it’s not like the Trots will soon be taking over the US. Conversely, the long trek through the desert which the once-proud socialist American tradition has gone through this past century has been dispiriting enough that the success of any kind of socialist, no matter of what orientation, is a little exciting.

It is, at the very least, interesting to see self-avowed, third-party Socialists being able to raise credible electoral challenges again in major cities – even if it’s just on a city council level – in what I’m guessing is the first time in many decades. The last mayor in a major city to hold office for a Socialist Party, in any case, was Milwaukee’s Mayor Frank Zeidler, who left office in 1960, though he was no revolutionary. (Even delving into smaller cities and towns, Wikipedians can only find one mayor who was elected on a socialist party ticket since: University Heights, Iowa – population 1,051 – had a Socialist mayor in the 1980s.) I’d suppose individual city council members might have survived longer, but presumably not very long?

Both Sawant and Moore apparently ran wholly grassroots-focused campaigns, rooted in personal histories of local activism. Moore must have benefited from running in a small and something of an outlier ward even by Minneapolis political standards, but Sawant ran for an at-large seat for the whole city. Seattle may be a liberal city, but it’s not Madison, WI. So who knows, the near-success of these candidates might show that the Overton window could be slightly shifting back, when it comes to talk of socialism and leftist ideas. Meanwhile, in two years’ time Seattle is changing from a 9 member at-large city council to a 7-district +2 at-large one, which would allow Sawant, if she does lose, to try again in a specific, very liberal district within the city, much increasing her chances.

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Not on the Bonus Burning Bandwagon

Economy, US Economy, US Politics

Have you heard about the bonuses paid to the losers at AIG?  OK, that’s a joke because everyone has heard about how “the very employees responsible for running the company into the ground” are making off with millions in tax payer dollars as Senator Mark Warner wrote in a letter to the AIG CEO Edward Liddy.  Now I will never receive a seven figure bonus and I can’t figure out why a company would ever agree to pay one, but with that being said, I’m just not on the Bonus Bashing bandwagon yet.  It’s not that I think AIG is great.  It’s not that I’m especially sympathetic with the downward spiral that the formally high riding AIG folks are on.  The real reason that I can’t yet bring myself to go looking for my torch and pitchfork is that we really don’t know squat about these bonuses… and neither do the congressmen building ever higher soap boxes from which to denounce them.  What we don’t know so far:  who got the bonuses, why they got them, what were the criteria for receiving them.  What we do know: $165 million in bounuses were paid and a total of close to $1 billion is slated to be paid to around 4,600 top managers in 2009.  So do all our congressmen know what they are talking about?

I heard one congressman saying something to the effect of “how do any of these people deserve performance bonuses when their company is crashing?”  Let me say again that I don’t understand million dollar bonuses, but that said, I think it is perfectly reasonable that bad companies can have great employees.  Should the top salesman at the local GM dealership give up his bonus because GM is doing poorly?  What if GM accepts government money?  What if he sells a crappy car?  My thought is that if he was working to an incentive plan and he achieved his end of the deal, he should get his check.  Many employees receive some portion on their pay as variable compensation.  Every employee at the company where I work is on a bonus plan.  We don’t get millions, but everyone has the potential to get up to 10% of their annual pay based on performance.  For more senior employees the percentage is higher.  If I meet my objectives and targets, can the government take that money away?  Personally, I don’t consider this a “bonus”, I consider it pay.  How about that guy, Douglas Poling,  who received the biggest bonus: $6.4 million?  Turns out he was reponsible for trying to clean up the mess and his work resulted in AIG recouping big dollars, dollars that we taxpayers don’t have to pay.

Gerry Pasciucco, a former vice chairman of Morgan Stanley who was brought in by Mr. Liddy in November to wind down the financial products unit, said Mr. Poling had sold off roughly 80 percent of the unit’s assets. Mr. Pasciucco said the money from the sales would go to the government, which has handed more than $170 billion in bailout money to A.I.G. in the last six months.

“He’s done an outstanding job in winding down his investment books,” Mr. Pasciucco said. “He did it at the right time, and we’ve made money. We would be losing money today if we waited to sell some of these assets.”

By the way, our boy Doug gave the bonus back.

We’ve also read about “retention bonuses paid to people who have left the company.”  How does that make sense?  OK, from far away, I can question the wisdom of offering these plans, but let’s understand that these payments are made after the service term to employees that stayed last year.  For whatever reason, AIG offered to make a payment to employees who stayed in 2008.  When that period expired, they were entitled to the payment even if they left the company.  AIG was not government supported at the time, but was feeling heat.  Maybe they felt they needed to keep top performers.  I don’t know why they made these offers.  You don’t either.  I probably wouldn’t have offered such plans, but if I was offered one and accepted it in good faith to stay on a sinking ship, I’d consider my end of the deal complete.  Was management pulling a fast one?  Let’s go find out, but at least let’s hold our fire until we know the answer.

What has all the rhetoric achieved so far?  We’ve got dubious legislation attacking people’s pay passing in Congress without debate, security memos at AIG warning employees to beware of people seeking to do them harm and employees being harassed and attacked at their homes.  Does anyone besides me think we need to get the full story before burning people at the stake?

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What I Want to See from Rush

Economy, Politics, Uncategorized, US Economy, US Politics

Rush LImbaugh has been crowned the leader of the Republican Party by the Democrats and to the humor of all, his fellow Republicans have kind of completed coronation.  So how should Rush use his new found power?  It’s clear that there is a void at the top of the Republican party and Rush has a large bully pulpit, so what should he do?  I have an idea for you Rush.

First, recognize that all those who try to speak for the Republican Party on the stimulus all have one thing in common:  They are completely unqualified to speak about the economy in general and our current crisis in particular.  Not that the Democratic congressmen and senators are any better, because they aren’t.  On one side of this crisis, you have Obama’s administration consulting with the best economists money can buy.  One the other side, you have … what, a bunch of politicans looking to profit from being in the opposition?  People who want Obama to fail?  This is not going to work for you.

Once you understand that these people, your subjects, don’t know what they’re talking about, it’s time to take on the administration.  Put together your team of reputable economists and present your own plan!  I’m sure you can find a group of economists who are not confident about the administration’s plan to sit around a table, put together a comprehensive theory of what is happening and how we can mitigate the crisis and then propose a solution that is different than what the administration has proposed.  The economists would probably do it for free just for the press!  Armed with a counter proposal,  your minions in government would be in a position to ask for changes in the stimulus package instead of futilely cursing the Democrats.  This is your chance to lead Rush.  What are you going to do with it?

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Cutting Off Your Nose To Spite Your Face

Economy, education, Politics, Uncategorized, US Economy, US Politics

It seems like a new Republican mantra has broken free from the dark corridors where is was previously consigned to furtive whispers: they want Obama to fail.  I understand that Obama is pushing for many policies that don’t fit with the Republican party line, but how can you want him to fail?  What does an Obama failure look like for the United States?  Unemployment over 10%?  Numerous failures in the US manufacturing sector?  Significant erosion in the soft power of the US, much of which stems from our economic position in the world?  Is that what Republicans are hoping for?  How can a Republican congressman go back to his or her constituents and defend this position?  The governor of South Carolina has gone so far as to say he wants to use S.C.’s share of the stimulus money to pay down South Carolina’s debts instead of trying to create new jobs.  Since South Carolina’s unemployment rate is 10.4%, the second highest in the nation, you might think that the governor would decide to create more jobs, but even as the state is furloughing teachers and moving to larger class sizes, Governor Stanford is turning away help for politics.

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Jim Bunning Death Watch, Part 2

Politics, US Politics

Jim Bunning’s current status is: Self-destructive.

The suicide watch has been posted at Sen. Jim Bunning’s office.

Or, at least, it should be.  In the latest chapter of this increasingly bizarre saga, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports that Bunning (R-KY) told a closed fundraising meeting of his supporters that he would resign from office if he encountered opposition from the Republican Party to his reelection effort.

“I would get the last laugh. Don’t forget Kentucky has a Democrat governor,” one of the sources quoted Bunning as saying.

“The only logical extension of that comment is, ‘(Make me mad) … enough and I’ll resign, and then you’ve got 60 Democrats,’ ” said another source who was present at the event.

Theres precedent for this sort of threat

There's precedent for this sort of threat

Bunning’s official response was, predictably, a denial: “It’s not true. I intend to fulfill my obligation to the people of Kentucky. If you are going to write something like this, you better make your sources known, because they are lying.”  Of course, Bunning has a tendency to deny many of his kookier remarks until it is revealed that somebody had recorded them on tape, at which point Bunning’s memory becomes somewhat less fuzzy.

In terms of strategy, this amounts to saying: “don’t piss me off or I’ll kill myself.”  It seems pretty evident, therefore, that Bunning hasn’t thought his cunning plan all the way through.  As one source revealed to the Courier-Journal:

“It’s not because he’s old and senile — he’s always been like that. He’ll tell you what he thinks,” the source said.

But Bunning’s resistance to retirement is “sad to see,” the source said.

“The problem I see with all this media attention is, it just makes him more stubborn rather than make him ready to make a rational decision,” the source said.

Very astute source.


Jindal’s Response and What is Says About the Conservative Movement

education, Politics, US Economy, US Politics

After President Obama’s address, the latest “rising star” of the Republican Party took the stage to present the party response.  Bobby Jindal’s speech has been pretty widely panned with pundits commenting unfavorably on his delivery, diction, stage presence, etc, but in terms of respresenting current Conservative thought, it was right on the money.  Skip all the window dressing and look at the meat of his address. Here is what I take away about Conservative views on government, taxes, education, science and defense.

Role of government

Governor Jindal starts with this story:

During Katrina, I visited Sheriff Harry Lee, a Democrat and a good friend of mine. When I walked into his makeshift office, I’d never seen him so angry. He was yelling into the phone: “Well, I’m the Sheriff and if you don’t like it you can come and arrest me!” I asked him: “Sheriff, what’s got you so mad?” He told me that he had put out a call for volunteers to come with their boats to rescue people who were trapped on their rooftops by the floodwaters. The boats were all lined up ready to go, when some bureaucrat showed up and told them they couldn’t go out on the water unless they had proof of insurance and registration. I told him, “Sheriff, that’s ridiculous.” And before I knew it, he was yelling into the phone: “Congressman Jindal is here, and he says you can come and arrest him too!” Harry just told the boaters to ignore the bureaucrats and go start rescuing people.

There is a lesson in this experience: The strength of America is not found in our government. It is found in the compassionate hearts and the enterprising spirit of our citizens.

The point here: Government is an obstacle to be overcome.  This particular story is pretty ironic.  My father was one of the late sheriff Lee’s deputies in the mid eighties and if there is one thing that is beyond doubt is that Lee was a politician through and through, the most influential politician in Jefferson Parish from the 80’s until his recent death.  Jindal praises Lee’s work organizing relief while at the same time implying that government is the problem.  The Governor envisions a world where the government is too small to help so that the “compassionate hearts and the enterprising spirit of our citizens” can shine through.

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Jim Bunning Death Watch, Part 1

Politics, US Politics

In his career, Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) has worn a variety of hats.  He started out as a major league baseball player, where he pitched for the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies and was good enough to end up in the Hall of Fame.  He then went into politics in his home state of Kentucky, serving in the state legislature before being elected to congress and then, in 1998, winning a senate seat that he successfully defended in 2004.  And now, it appears, he’s a cancer specialist.

During a wide-ranging 30-minute speech on Saturday [Feb. 21] at the Hardin County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner, Bunning said he supports conservative judges “and that’s going to be in place very shortly because Ruth Bader Ginsburg … has cancer.”

“Bad cancer. The kind that you don’t get better from,” he told a crowd of about 100 at the old State Theater.

“Even though she was operated on, usually, nine months is the longest that anybody would live after (being diagnosed) with pancreatic cancer,” he said.

Bunning: "How many fingers am I holding up? Two? Two is correct."

Evidently, Bunning’s service in the senate alongside Bill Frist has given the Kentucky senator the same ability to make long-distance medical evaluations as Frist displayed during the Terri Schiavo affair.  Frist, it should be recalled, admitted that he had diagnosed Schiavo “based on a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office.”  He concluded that Schiavo, despite her persistent vegetative state and extensive brain damage, “certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli.”

It’s not clear that the same can be said for Bunning.  Kentucky’s junior senator has been known to exhibit inexplicably bizarre behavior during his time in office.  In his 2004 reelection campaign, he said that his Democratic opponent, Dan Mongiardo, the son of Italian immigrants, “looked like one of Saddam Hussein’s sons.”  Bunning also confessed that he wasn’t much of a news junkie: “Let me explain something: I don’t watch the national news, and I don’t read the paper. I haven’t done that for the last six weeks. I watch Fox News to get my information.” That led to charges that Bunning was “out of touch,” which prompted a Nixonian denial: “That’s unfair. You know it is.  Of course I’m not out of touch.”  Note to aspiring politicians: when you have to assure voters that, really, you’re not all that out of touch, you’re doing something wrong.

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Santelli: The Hope of Audacity

Economy, Politics, US Economy, US Politics

The term chutzpah — a Hebrew term for shameless audacity — is often defined by analogy: it’s like a man who murders his parents and then pleads for leniency because he’s an orphan.  Or it might be like a man who complains about the financial irresponsibility of average citizens while being cheered on by a bunch of derivatives traders.

Im the problem?  No, YOURE the problem!

Rick Santelli: "I'm the problem? No, YOU'RE the problem!"

That man was Rick Santelli, a financial affairs commentator for CNBC, member of the Chicago Board of Trade, and a former executive at Drexel Burnham Lambert, a firm driven into bankruptcy in the 1990s due to financially irresponsible trading in junk bonds.  Santelli, in what has become an anguished cri de cour for the conservative “what, me worry?” crowd, complained on a recent broadcast that the government stimulus package was “promoting bad behavior” by rewarding home buyers who can’t afford their mortgage payments (or, in Santelli’s words, the “losers”).  As Santelli put it:

You know, the new administration’s big on computers and technology– How about this, President and new administration? Why don’t you put up a website to have people vote on the Internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers’ mortgages; or would we like to at least buy cars and buy houses in foreclosure and give them to people that might have a chance to actually prosper down the road, and reward people that could carry the water instead of drink the water?

Again, let me point out: Santelli was saying this on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade.  Certainly, it was possible for him to find a more ironic location from which to deliver this diatribe (one of the trading rooms at Bear Stearns comes to mind), but probably not one more convenient for his daily commute into the Loop.

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Who Pays for Healthcare?

US Politics

If President Obama’s campaign promises are worth going by, there is going to be a healthcare debate in the United States in the next couple of years.  Now’s the time to ask “who pays?”  The annual health care cost in the US passed the $2 trillion mark in 2006 and is rising at twice the cost of inflation.  If the government moves to a more universal health care system, won’t that move that cost onto the taxpayer?  The answer is that the citizens of the United States are already paying all the costs of our health care system.  Our employers, the primary sources of health insurance in the United States, pay third parties to pay for our health care, then immediately pass those costs along to their customers.  Every plane ticket you buy is paying for some healthcare.  That GM car?  Lots of health care built in there.  Banking services, ditto.  Taxes to state and local governments go to paying for health care for their employees.  Indigent care in hospital emergency rooms?  Paid for with tax dollars or higher fees for paying customers and that money comes from us.  WE ARE ALREADY PAYING THE ENTIRE COST OF OUR HEALTHCARE SYSTEM!

In some cases, those costs are killing off American businesses.  GM doesn’t need help because they don’t make good cars.  OK, the Japanese have a quality advantage, but the reality is that Detroit has caught up a lot over the last two decades and US cars have been climbing in the quality rankings for over a decade.  GM is saddled with $2,000 per car in costs for retired employees that their competitors don’t have to pay, and lot of that is healthcare.  Not only do we pay for that cost when we buy a car, we pay again in lost jobs, lower salaries and bailout money.  It’s like paying your mortgage a little several times a day instead of once a month.  It doesn’t make it cost any less.  It probably drives up expenses.  But it hides the cost.  You may feel better about it, but it still means that at the end of the month you are wondering where your money went.

Let’s put aside all the political debate and just look at costs.  It’s cheaper to treat a cavity at the dentist office than it is to treat an abscess in the emergency room.  Cheaper to pay for pre-natal care than a problem delivery.  Cheaper to pay for a flu vaccine than treat the flu.  A single payer system is a more cost effective way to deliver healthcare in this country and it doesn’t cost the taxpayer a single dime more.  We’re paying it already.

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Roberts: Supreme Court Works Best When Everyone Is Like Me

Politics, US Politics

“For the first time in its history, every member of the United States Supreme Court is a former federal appeals court judge. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., in a lively and surprising talk a couple of weeks ago, said that development might be a good thing.”  So writes Adam Liptak, the supreme court correspondent of the New York Times.

They dress alike, they act alike ...

"They laugh alike, they walk alike, at times they even talk alike ..."

It’s not clear why this is such a good thing, although I suppose homogeneity becomes much more attractive when everyone looks a lot like you.  It is unlikely that the composition of the high court has ever been so uniform as it is today.  Not only are all nine justices former federal appellate court judges, four of them served on the same circuit bench.  Indeed, only Anthony Kennedy and John Paul Stevens served in federal courts outside of the Washington-Philadelphia-New York triangle.  Granted, with the addition of a woman and a black man, the court’s group photo no longer looks exactly like the fortieth reunion of a Princeton eating club, but it could be a class reunion photo for Harvard Law School — after all, five of the justices graduated from there.

This is a far cry from the days when there was, unofficially, a “New York seat” or a “southern seat” or a “New England seat” or even a “Jewish seat” on the supreme court (there’s still a “Catholic seat,” to be sure, but it’s currently being occupied by five of the nine justices).  More disturbing, none of the justices has ever served as a trial court judge, despite the fact that the supreme court routinely reviews the performance of those judges and determines whether they made the right decisions — decisions that the justices themselves have never had to make.  It’s rather like having a sport where none of the referees has actually played the game.

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Redditors to the rescue

Culture, Economy, Media / journalism, Politics, US Economy, US Politics

A Redditor started a Wiki on the stimulus bill. The purpose: to translate its provisions into ordinary language so regular people can understand it, filtering out the legalese. And to sort out exactly how much money is assigned to what and whom.

The initiative got some 870 up votes (and lots of discussion) on Reddit, and it seems like a fair spread of people is now working on the Wiki. I thought it was interesting: both the idea and the resonance it had. Citizenship in action?

Of course, as with every Wiki, the risk of pranks and manipulation looms rather large. But at least, as one commenter notes, it seems like an interesting social experiment. And even just the act of creating it should acquaint a bunch of people with the specifics of the bill, maybe better than many of the Congressmen who had to vote on it hours after the final version was released.

It’s also distinct from a partisan initiative like (offline right now), which was sponsored by the Heritage Foundation.

No idea how useful or complete it will become. For one, while the site links to the post-conference version of the bill, it also notes that it is still largely based on the version that was passed by the House on 28 January. Whereas the bill was of course significantly modified since – first by the Senate, which made changes that according to Krugman would have created 600,000 jobs less than the original House bill, and then by the conference, which crafted a compromise between the two bills.

I’d also worry about reinventing the wheel. For example, as noted in the Reddit thread, the CBO already created a table, stretching for a few pages, that summarises the stimulus expenses, year by year, by section of the bill. (Table 2 in the enclosures of this letter from the CBO director to Nancy Pelosi.)

But still I thought it was great. At best it will make for a very neat tool, and at worst it will still, as initiative, be an encouraging sign of the times.

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Pithy criticism

Politics, US Politics

TNR The Plank commenter WoodyBombay on Judd Gregg’s withdrawal of his nomination for the Commerce Secretary post (the timing of which led at least some to suspect bad faith):

I hope that’s the last scorpion Obama ferries across the river for a while.

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