Obama’s August: Not Bad, Actually
September 02, 2009

In today’s Washington Post, Dan Balz makes the case that August was a disaster for the Obama administration and health care reform. I believed that before I read Balz’s column--in fact, there can’t be anybody who follows politics who doesn’t believe August was terrible for the Democrats. But Balz’s column paradoxically made me think that perhaps we all had it wrong. Obviously, August saw a decline in Obama’s approval ratings and public confidence in health care reform. But public support is not the only variable here.

Deterred From Logic on Nukes
September 01, 2009

In the latest issue of Newsweek, Jonathan Tepperman has a very confused piece arguing that nuclear disarmament is a bad idea because “[t]he bomb may actually make us safer.” Taking a stand against Washington’s allegedly overwhelming “nuclear phobia,” he writes, “Knowing the truth about nukes would have a profound impact on government policy.” I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone suggest that they know “the truth” about nuclear weapons, but I’m quite certain that Tepperman hasn’t found it. The thrust of the article is that nuclear-armed states won’t fight each other because “all states are rati

A Letter From a Swedish Friend On the Blood Libel
September 01, 2009

“Well, it is blood libel isn't it? Of the most horrendous sort. It is also odd. Aftonbladet is a tabloid owned by the Social Democrats (I can't quite remember how, via a union perhaps, or trust). They have usually been quite pro-Israel. And traditionally in Sweden, while there was a huge degree of racialist nonsense in the interwar period, it was not directed towards the (800-odd) Jews. I know because I read the literature for an academic article I wrote.

From a Position of Strength
August 31, 2009

WASHINGTON--President Obama can still secure major health care legislation this year if he learns from his mistakes in recent months and spends more time reminding Americans why they were once eager for fundamental change. His White House lost sight of the need to make a strong case that reform would deliver specific benefits to the insured as well as the uninsured.

A Strange Prediction
August 28, 2009

Charles Krauthammer today predicts that the Democrats will soon abandon the whole idea of using health care reform to “bend the curve” toward less explosive cost growth. He predicts they will: more generally, abandon the whole idea of Obamacare as cost-cutting. True, it was Obama's original rationale for creating a whole new entitlement at a time of a sinking economy and a bankrupt Treasury. But, as many universal-health-care liberals complain, selling pain is poor salesmanship. I don’t think that Democrats will do this, but I see his point.

His Father's Son
August 28, 2009

Of all the politicians I’ve encountered in the course of doing my job, there have been some that I’ve admired and some that I’ve loathed. But there’s only one politician I’ve ever pitied, and that’s Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy. I met Kennedy three summers ago when I was reporting a profile of Newt Gingrich and both politicians were giving speeches to a business conference in Newport, Rhode Island. Although I was there to hear Gingrich’s talk, it was Kennedy’s that made the bigger impression, if only because it was so bad.

August 28, 2009

The pundits are busy filing their reports on how President Obama blew it on health care reform. And while the health care fight is far from over--I remain convinced the Democrats will pass a bill, maybe even a good one--the pundits have a point. Obama surely has made mistakes, among them focusing so heavily on how reform would reduce the cost of medicine.

Why Taxing Trades Could Make Sense
August 27, 2009

The UK's top financial regulator, Adair Turner, has suggested a tax on all financial transactions around the world. The purpose of this tax, he argues, would be to prevent the return of "business as usual" for the banking sector: "If you want to stop excessive pay in a swollen financial sector you have to reduce the size of that sector or apply special taxes to its pre-remuneration profit." Transaction taxes -- better known as Tobin taxes after Yale economist James Tobin -- have been proposed and implemented in the past to discourage speculative short-term trades and reduce market volatility.

Who Is My Neighbor?
August 27, 2009

Harold Pollack is a professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and Special Correspondent for The Treatment. If you have not seen this CNN clip, watch it now. Here is the transcript, which hardly does justice to the 2-minute clip of what was happening in that room. Unidentified participant: "My husband has traumatic brain injury. His health insurance will not cover him to eat and drink. And what I need to know is: Are you going to help him? We left the nursing home, and they told us we are on our own. He left with a feeding tube.

Do Markets Increase Trust?
August 27, 2009

What's the relationship between markets and morality? The standard assumption is that markets have little impact on the moral character of people who operate within them. But it doesn't look like that's necessarily the case. Patrick Francois and Tanguy van Ypersele studied what happened to people's level of "trust in others" in states that deregulated their financial sectors in ways that increased competition. Trust can be considered a moral attribute, and given what's happened in the subprime market, you'd think that deregulation might lead to a drop in trust.