Hoover

Michael Hiltzik has an interesting piece in the Los Angeles Times on the false promise of the Hoover Dam, that great symbol of the New Deal (even though, of course, the dam wasn't actually brought about by the New Deal—FDR had initially campaigned against Hoover's large public-works projects, and only changed his mind once in office). During the postwar era, the reservoir created by the dam helped transform the U.S. Southwest, allowing Los Angeles and San Diego to balloon in size and setting the stage for a major agricultural boom in the region.

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For Richard Blumenthal to claim that he has been “misspeaking” in implying that he fought in Vietnam rather than obtaining multiple deferments and finally waiting things out in the Marine Reserves right here at home is repulsive. I am not exactly the first one out of the gate on that. However, he is also using language in the same way a great many Americans do when doing what they think of as The Right Thing. And as speakers of English always have – as well as speakers of any human language.

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The 20% Law

David Ranson today trots out a claim the Wall Street Journal editorial page has been making for years, which is that revenues can't rise much above 20% of GDP -- higher taxes will just choke off growth, Laffer Curve-style: The nearby chart shows how tax revenue has grown over the past eight decades along with the size of the economy. It illustrates the empirical relationship first introduced on this page 20 years ago by the Hoover Institution's W. Kurt Hauser—a close proportionality between revenue and GDP since World War II, despite big changes in marginal tax rates in both directions.

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Jonah Goldberg has a long essay in Commentary attempting to defend the notion that President Obama is a socialist. The argument suffers from numerous flaws. One of them is that it cites three liberal writers -- John Judis, Harold Meyerson, and Matthew Yglesias -- discussing socialism, and concludes, "Surely if fans of President Obama’s program feel free to call it socialist, critics may be permitted to do likewise." Except that none of those writers was actually calling Obama's program socialist.

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The attacks on the Justice Department lawyers who had represented Guantanamo detainees angered me for several distinct reasons. They typified a growing culture of incivility in the politics of national security and law that I have always loathed and have spoken against repeatedly. They sought to delegitimize the legal defense of politically unpopular clients and to impose a kind of ideological litmus test on Justice Department service. They were also, at least in part, about friends and professional acquaintances.

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Barack Obama has been compared to almost every American President of the last hundred years--favorably to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan; and unfavorably to Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.

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If there was one thing that seemed certain about the Obama administration, it was their commitment to Keynesian deficit spending to boost the economy out of its slump. But Keynes beware: With unemployment at a whopping 10.2 percent, and probably rising, the White House has begun trumpeting its commitment to Hoover-style deficit busting. On November 13, the White House warned cabinet departments of a spending freeze. The next week, while in China, Barack Obama told an interviewer the United States could suffer from a “double-dip recession” if it didn’t restrain public debt.

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End State

California is a mess, but I love it all the same--especially the Bay Area, where I lived for 15 years. I went to Berkeley in 1962--a refugee from Amherst College, which at that time was dominated by frat boys with high SAT scores. I didn't go to Berkeley to go to school, but to be a bus ride away from North Beach and the Jazz Workshop. In a broader sense, I went to California for the same reason that other émigrés had been going since the 1840s. I was knocking on the Golden Door. Immigrants from Europe had come to America seeking happiness and a break with their unhappy pasts.

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It's becoming more obvious each day that the conservative assault on Barack Obama's legislative agenda, including his incrementalist efforts towards universal health coverage, isn’t much about the details. It is, instead, a counter-revolutionary campaign to revive 1980s-era middle-class resentments of particular beneficiaries of government social programs.

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In budget hearings today, Kent Conrad decried "Hoover economics." This prompted National Review's David Freddoso to trot out the conservative vogue belief that Hoover was actually a big government liberal. I adressed this in my review of Amity Shlaes' influential New Deal revisionist tome "The Forgotten Man":  Shlaes's answer is to implicate Hoover as a New Deal man himself:     Hoover had called for a bank holiday to end the     banking crisis; Roosevelt's first act was to declare a bank     holiday to sort out the banks and build confidence. ...

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