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The Case for Stimulus Transit Spending in a Nutshell

[ 0 ] February 5, 2009 |

The fact that public transit is being cut as demand is increasing is not only bad and countercyclical in itself, but has additional bad side effects:

One stop scheduled to be cut is in the western suburb of Chesterfield, Mo., just up the road from a bright, cheerful nursing home called the Garden View Care Center. Without those buses, roughly half of the center’s kitchen staff and half of its housekeeping staff — people like Laura Buxton, a cook known for her fried chicken who comes in from Illinois, and Danette Nacoste, who commutes two hours each way from her home in South St. Louis to her job in the laundry — will not have any other way to get to work.

“They’re going to be stranding a whole lot of people,” said Val Butler, a nurses’ assistant at Garden View, who said that she feared looking for work elsewhere in a tightening economy. “A lot of people are going to lose their jobs. A lot of people.”

The fact that transit funding has been cut for the package while a yet another subsidy for home purchasers is being included is depressing.

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Leverage, Real And Imagined

[ 0 ] February 4, 2009 |

With respect to the question of whether the stimulus can get 60 votes, Drum outlines what the Democratic leadership should be thinking:

If Republicans really did put up a united front and filibuster the legislation, the Democratic leadership would just turn around and consider the bill under budget reconciliation rules, which require only a majority vote to pass. Sure, they’ve already said they’d prefer not to do that, but if they have to they will. And since the bill is all about short-term spending, it would obviously qualify under reconciliation rules.

So all the public handwringing seems like standard DC negotiating kabuki to me, not a genuine effort to kill the bill. If Republicans filibuster, the public will view them as bitter obstructionists and the bill will pass anyway. It’s hard to see what’s in it for them to go down this road.

In theory, this is of course correct; a filibuster should be both politically damaging and futile for the Republicans, and the Democrats shouldn’t just assume that they need 60 votes but should compel an actual filibuster before just passing the best stimulus they can under reconciliation rules if necessary. The Democrats should realize that the GOP has very little actual leverage here. Whether they do, of course, is another question, and I’m much less optimistic about the answer than Kevin. (Admittedly, it’s hard to tell the difference between concessions being offered to appease Republicans and concessions being offered to appease Blue Dogs.)

The Letter Michael Phelps Should Have Written

[ 0 ] February 3, 2009 |

Yup.

On a related note, see Balko’s work on the Ryan Frederick trial.

"Thank God, right?"

[ 0 ] February 3, 2009 |

This extensive list of relevant quotes from Bill “O’Racist” O’Reilly leaves out one of my favorite examples:

In THE FACTOR “Follow-Up” Segment tonight, we’ve been following the various demographic shifts throughout America, and now the Census Bureau estimates, by the year 2050, white Americans will make up less than 50 percent of the population. How will that change the USA?

Joining us now from Washington is Dr. William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. Here in the studio, John McManus, the editor in chief of “American Demographics” magazine.

So I guess this is being driven by Hispanics, right, with all the illegal immigration, millions of people coming in here and the higher birth rate among Hispanics in America. That’s what’s driving this?

JOHN MCMANUS, “AMERICAN DEMOGRAPHICS”: The Hispanic population is the greatest increase that we’ll see over the time period that we’re talking about. Illegal immigration is a portion of the story, but it’s the increase in — rapid increase in immigration and birth rate in people of Hispanic origin that we’ll see.

O’REILLY: All right. Because black birth rate is fairly stable, right?

MCMANUS: Proportionately, black birth rate and increases in their population will level out and be less significant in growth in that time period. I think Bill will be able to address the numbers better than I can, but…

O’REILLY: OK. And how about Asian? What’s the situation with that?

MCMANUS: Asian — we’re going to see a 213 percent increase, according to the Census Bureau projection, and so that will be a very rapid increase of the percentage of their population in the U.S. as well.

O’REILLY: All right. Now, Doctor, the Census Bureau really doesn’t tell us how this is going to affect the country. Do you have any theories on it?

WILLIAM FREY, PH.D., BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, I really think what’s happening is going to be this phasing out or fading out of the white baby boom population. It is a 50-year time period we’re talking about…

O’REILLY: Yes. We’ll all be dead. Thank God, right?

But it’s all taken out of context!

The 17th Amendment: A Good Thing

[ 0 ] February 3, 2009 |

In re the appointment of Judd Gregg to commerce, Beutler snarks:

Surely Gregg’s desire to replace himself with somebody who will often oppose his new boss’s agenda is evidence of his deep commitment to the administration, the cabinet, and the agency he appears poised to head.

As a reason to dislike the appointment, this is fair. But it should be said that on the merits Gregg is of course right to insist on a Republican replacement. As much as I want 60 seats, it would be ridiculous for Gregg’s personal ambition to effectively overturn the results of the last election.

There is, of course, a way to solve these kinds of problems. As has been mentioned recently on this very blog, I don’t think there can be any serious question that vacated Senate seats should be filled by special election. For executive positions, having an immediate replacement in place is necessary, but that’s not the case with legislators. Until his state does it right, though, Gregg is right to insist on a Republican replacement as a condition for taking the job.

Socialism For Me But Not For Thee

[ 0 ] February 3, 2009 |

Shorter James Cramer: Anybody who believes that merely having a business run so incompetently that you require a massive taxpayer bailout should preclude bonuses is a communist. And let’s be frank, nobody who doesn’t receive at least a six-figure bonus works hard.

In A Shocking Development

[ 0 ] February 3, 2009 |

…bloggers are actually taking useful roles in government. As we’ve mentioned before, Lederman’s hire is especially encouraging but they all look impressive.

And even if he wasn’t a blogger, it’s nice to have Holder rather than Mukasey heading Justice. Wheeler has the rollcall.

Deep Thought

[ 0 ] February 2, 2009 |

If only Pajamas Media had put on more blogjams, it could have been the hottest thing since the Victory Caucus.

Tonight’s Professional Sporting Event

[ 0 ] February 1, 2009 |

Straight-up, you obviously have to pick the Steelers; they’re probably the best team in the league, going up against a team that is better than its regular season record but not that much better. If the game was at Heinz Field, I would take the Steelers giving away the points easily. I would be a little reluctant to give up 7 points to take Pittsburgh on the neutral field, though; Tomlin seems very conservative when he has a lead and Pittsburgh’s offense isn’t great. But, if I had to, I would still probably go Pittsburgh -7 — they’re not going to win again if Big Ben doesn’t play well, but I think he will. And I think we’re going to see that while Jimmy “if the blitz is working, blitz. If they’re shredding your blitz with screens and slants, keep blitzin’!” Johnson as a very overrated defensive coordinator, Dick LeBeau isn’t. The fact that Pittsburgh can apply pressure while maintaining a decent number of DBs will, I think, be the key difference between this game and the NFC championship game.

And, I mean…it’s the Cardinals. Against the Steelers. I’m just not enough of a nihilist to pick the former…

EPIC FAIL, Utter Inevitability Edition

[ 0 ] January 31, 2009 |

Pajamas Media. If I understand correctly, they’re going to go from being a $7 million wingnut RSS feeder/wingnut BlogAds to a wingnut BloggingHeads. I’m sure that will be equally successful…

…whoa, whoa, whoa…is it true that the idea is that this wingnut Bloggingheads will involve a subscription fee? That’s twice as expensive as Showtime? Maybe there are people who would actually pay money to watch Glenn Reynolds interview Roger Simon. I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t want to know. They’re the kind of market we could do without. (Hmm, maybe now I see the business model: compiling lists of leads for various sales enterprises. “Look, if you don’t buy our list of extremely dumb people with way too much money on their hands, we’re taking it across the street to Jerry Graff!” Alas, I think you need more than 5 names…)

…in the funniest bit of comedy from his letter to the dupes, Roger Simon explains his new business model:

…but as many of you have noticed we are putting considerable effort into Pajamas TV. The theory behind this is that television is on the cusp of change and the Internet and the TV set will soon fuse. Apple TV already exists and several of the electronic companies have flat screen TVs in the pipeline with the Internet accessible at the click of a remote. Pajamas TV is trying to position itself for this in the long run.

All of this may be true, but alas for it to be relevant there would have to be an actual market for hour-long “Joe the Plumber’s exclusive interview with 2012 GOP presidential front-runner Fred Thompson, live from a hammock in Glenn Reynolds’s backyard” videos. But I’m sure they have data proving that people with video game consoles mysteriously start paying for content they wouldn’t watch in a million years for free once they discover that they can watch the intertubes on the teevee! This makes pets.com look like a better business model than Microsoft…

…Thers also had the last point. An example of “minds who are at least smart enough not to invest 7 million dollars in Pajamas Media think alike,” I guess…

More On The "Somehow Overruling Roe Would Be Good For Reproductive Freedom" Fantasy

[ 0 ] January 31, 2009 |

Ed Kilgore has a good, very detailed response to Damon Linker. One thing to add is that the idea that pro-criminalizing-abortion politics is at bottom about procedural objections rather than moral objections 1)is condescension dressed up as respect, and 2)exceptionally implausible. How many people who oppose Roe consistently oppose judicial intervention into policy disputes? Given the reaction to, say, Kelo, Heller, or Parents Involved, we can approximate the number as approximately “zero.” Or, about the same as the number of people who care about “federalism” when it conflicts with any cherished political interest.

"Compromise" Through Unilateral Surrender

[ 0 ] January 30, 2009 |

I hadn’t seen the wealthy urban male proposing to “solve” the abortion debate by letting anti-choicers win (hey, women he knows will be able to get abortions, so who cares, right?) routine in its pure form for a while, but Damon Linker is back to the plate:

How could Obama — how could liberals, how could supporters of abortion rights — both win and end the culture war, once and for all? By supporting the reversal or significant narrowing of Roe, allowing abortion policy to once again be set primarily by the states — a development that would decisively divide and demoralize the conservative side of the culture war by robbing it of the identity politics that holds it together as a national movement.

I’ve been through this many times before — most comprehensively in the article linked at the top — but to summarize some of the most obvious defects in Linker’s argument:

  • The idea that overturning Roe would “return the issue to the states” is transparently wrong, and the idea that having constant legislative battles about banning abortion at the state and federal level would somehow “end the culture war” is bizarre.
  • Linker’s claim that the pro-life movement was “conjured into being” by Roe is entirely false. Opposition to abortion legalization was very well-mobilized prior to 1973, which is why abortion was still illegal in most states with little immediate prospect for changing policy for the better. If the argument is that the movement expanded, this would seem to be the more trivial argument that winning creates more opposition. Linker’s answer that it would therefore be better to lose seems…unconvincing.
  • Linker’s grasp on abortion law seems, at best, tenuous. Consider his claim that “in socially liberal Western Europe, where democratically elected legislatures readily place modest restrictions on abortion that would never be allowed to stand under current American constitutional law.” My first question: what “modest” restriction of abortion (aside from husband notification laws) would not be permitted under current American constitutional law? (Linker shows no awareness that Casey even exists.) My second question: Does Linker realize that when you consider all factors — most notably state funding — abortion is probably more accessible to women in many Western European countries than in the U.S.? I fear he does not, and indeed has never spent much time considering how abortion policy actually works on the ground.
  • Another country Linker doesn’t mention: Canada, where abortion is a federally protected right, abortion is both largely unregulated and state-funded, and yet policy has been stable and abortion is not a salient issue in national politics. And since it completely destroys his assertion that the “culture war” over abortion is solely the product of judicial intervention, I think you can understand why.

In addition to these kinds of problems, there’s a broader question: why is the fact that people disagree over abortion supposed to be a bad thing, exactly? Politics is about conflict. So talk about “ending the culture war” doesn’t make sense. But even if it was a viable and desirable goal, I’m certainly sure that extinguishing the aboriton rights of poor women in red states won’t somehow end political conflict over abortion.

[X-Posted at TAPPED.]

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