Jonathan Chait

Michelle Bachmann's Intellectual Worldview
August 08, 2011

A huge proportion of the reporting and commentary around Michele Bachmann has revolved around the general theme "she's crazy." Yet I've found most of it immensely dissatisfying. Inevitably, we are promised a great feast of crazy, and instead served a few dissatisfying morsels -- a historical misstatement here, a rhetorical flourish there, but nothing greatly out of character with how the other Republican presidential candidates behave. Ryan Lizza's terrific profile of Bachmann finally delivers what we've been waiting for.

Drew Westen's Nonsense
August 08, 2011

There are some strong criticisms to be made of the Obama administration from the left, especially concerning Obama's passive response to the debt ceiling hostage crisis, and his frightening willingness to give away the store to John Boehner. I've made many of these criticisms myself. But Drew Westen's lengthy, attention-grabbing Sunday New York Times op-ed is not a strong criticism. It's a parody of liberal fantasizing. Westen is a figure, like George Lakoff, who arose during the darkest moments of the Bush years to sell liberals on an irresistible delusion.

What Would It Look Like If Teachers Were Treated Like Professionals?
August 08, 2011

Last week I argued that part of treating teachers like professionals means breaking the rigid union-mandated tenure-track: The old liberal slogan always demanded that we "treat teachers like professionals." That entails some measure of accountability -- we can debate the metrics -- which allows both that very bad teachers be fired and that very good ones can obtain greater pay and recognition.

How S&P Got Obama to Defend The Tea Party
August 08, 2011

There is an absurd quality to the debate over the S&P downgrade that captures the perverse incentive structure of our political system. House Republicans successfully played chicken with the debt ceiling and have vowed to continue doing so. As a result S&P downgraded Treasury debt: The "conclusion was pretty much motivated by all of the debate about the raising of the debt ceiling," John Chambers, chairman of S&P's sovereign ratings committee, said in an interview.

We're Being Downgraded For The Wrong Reasons
August 06, 2011

S&P's argument contains a crucial flaw, but its ultimate conclusion is right. The American political system is much riskier and less stable than it was before. The basic situation is that we have a political system that, in most cases, requires both parties to agree on major policy changes. One of those parties is only willing to bring revenue in line with outlay if the ideological terms of that adjustment are 100% congenial to their demands -- and even then, it is far from clear that the Republican approach would actually succeed in stabilizing the deficit.

Chart Of The Day
August 05, 2011

Technically, the headline is misleading, as it implies that I post a chart every day, when in fact I post them irregularly. "Chart Of The Day" just seemed more enticing as a headline than "Chart." Would you click on a blog item entitled "Chart?" I would not. Anyway, the chart:

The Nader-Kristol Axis Of... Well, Not "Good"
August 05, 2011

Ralph Nader advocates a left-wing primary challenge (though not by himself) to President Obama, apparently unaware that his credibility to make this case might be limited by certain electoral events. Bill Kristol catches a whiff and fans the flames, arguing that such a challenge will aid the left-wing cause: So what of the Democrats? Surely they’ll produce a primary challenger to their Wall Street coddling, Afghan war prosecuting, drone assassination ordering, and debt ceiling deal-signing occupant of the Oval Office!

How To Make Republicans Care About Stimulus
August 05, 2011

Adam Serwer and Kevin Drum write today about the paradox of republicans forcing contractionary fiscal policy, and then reaping the political benefit of the resulting contraction. This is, indeed, a maddeningly unjust outcome. But it also suggests one strange corollary: The only way to get a really big new stimulus would be to elect a mainstream Republican president (Say, Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty) in 2012. Here are my premises. Most Republican embrace of contractionary fiscal policy reflects conscious or unconscious partisanship rather than a sudden conversion to Austrian economics.

A Useful Compilation Of Republican Economic Thinking
August 05, 2011

The Jennifer Rubin post I mentioned earlier this morning also usefully reveals the paucity of Republican economic analysis. The party's agenda largely consists of maintaining current tax rates and deepening fiscal contraction. Rubin compiles quotes from various Republicans. Only Michelle Bachmann offers any prescriptive element. Let's look at her soundbites one by one: When I asked economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin of the American Action Forum about his assessment of our economic woes, he pointed to investors moving back to Treasurys (and out of the stock market) with the U.S.

How Obama's Policies Traveled From The Future To Cause The Recession
August 05, 2011

Yesterday, David Frum posed a question to conservatives: My conservative friends argue that the policies of Barack Obama are responsible for the horrifying length and depth of the economic crisis. Question: Which policies? Obama’s only tax increases – those contained in the Affordable Care Act – do not go into effect until 2014. Personal income tax rates and corporate tax rates are no higher today than they have been for the past decade. The payroll tax has actually been cut by 2 points.

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