Mitch Daniels Wins The Fiscal Special Olympics
September 08, 2010

Indiana governor, former Bush budget director and rumored dark-horse Republican presidential candidate Mitch Daniels lays out his economic recovery plan in today's Wall Street Journal op-ed page. Here's the basic problem. The gulf between the foundational beliefs of the conservative movement and basic fiscal reality is so deep that it is impossible for a Republican in good standing to promote a budget proposal that remotely makes sense. Yet analysts don't want to appear so partisan that we simply dismiss every Republican plan. So the standards for such proposals are extravagantly lowered.

Inequality is a Symptom, and More Years in School May Not Be the Cure
September 05, 2010

Raghuram G. Rajan has an excellent piece up on TNR’s website (“Let them Eat Credit”). Without trying to do too much violence to his argument, I would summarize it as follows: Growing income inequality in the United States has done tremendous damage to our economy. The most important cause for this inequality (supported by well-known research by Goldin and Katz) is that, although technological progress requires the labor force to have ever greater skills, our educational system has not kept pace by providing the labor force with greater sufficiently improved human capital.

Year of the Nutjob
September 02, 2010

How does the class of 2010 stack up against its lunatic predecessor, of 1994? There are the well-known data points—Rand Paul’s alleged kidnapping of a college classmate; Sharron Angle’s assertion that there are “domestic enemies” in Congress—that suggest we’ve reached a new zenith of crazy, making Newt Gingrich’s bunch look like sensible establishmentarians by comparison. But Paul and Angle only begin to capture the strangeness of candidates out there who may soon be occupying your Capitol and governor’s mansion.

The CBO Director Just Made Fiscal Policy Seem More Confusing. Yes, More Confusing.
September 01, 2010

Ben Bernanke's “unusually uncertain” may be for our times what Alan Greenspan’s “irrational exuberance” was to the late 1990s—a phrase that captures the dominant mood without providing much policy guidance. As dissent continued to rise in the ranks of the usually united Federal Reserve Board, unusual uncertainty reigned supreme at the annual Jackson Hole meeting.

Washington’s Power Grid
August 17, 2010

Late last month, Gallup released fresh state-by-state numbers on the electorate’s ideological and partisan identification. These numbers provide both an X-ray of the structure of political competition and a roadmap for November. To grasp the underlying story, I divided each list into a top and bottom 15 and a middle 20—from most to least conservative and from most to least Republican—and then arrayed them in a three by three grid.

The Start Treaty And Republican Path Dependency
August 10, 2010

Walter Pincus reports that Republicans overwhelmingly favored the previous Start Treaty before changing their tune on the current one: "This treaty is a masterstroke. . . . It is shorn of the tortured bench marks, sub-limits, arcane definitions and monitoring provisions that weighed down past arms control treaties," said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). "It assumes a degree of trust between nations that are no longer on the precipice of war." Those were words from Kyl's floor speech on March 6, 2003, in support of ratification of the Moscow Treaty, signed nine months earlier by President George W.

But Is Jesse Jackson *Interesting*?
July 15, 2010

Jesse Jackson has never interested me much. I’m a little late out of the gate in commenting about Jackson’s latest diversion, analogizing LeBron James to a runaway slave in light of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s sputtering about James’ departure to Miami. I’ve always been a little laggard in dogpiling on Jesse. When I first started writing about race, I quickly noted a certain cognitive dissonance: everybody expected the new cranky black “conservative” to have a Jesse obsession. I never did, and don’t now. He shouldn’t be news, really.

Country First
July 02, 2010

The Washington Post looks at the 11 Republican Senators who supported comprehensive immigration reform under George W. Bush but refuse to do so now: Some of the 11 senators whose support is critical to his plans signaled Thursday that they are not ready to back reform this time around. They also denied that they had changed their positions for political reasons. Laena Fallon, a spokeswoman for Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.), said the senator is interested in fixing the immigration system.

The Death Of Market Environmentalism
June 16, 2010

The market is a much more efficient tool to reduce carbon emissions than command-and-control regulations. The downside is that it's more transparent about the costs it imposes. Regulation attacks the problem less efficiently, but the costs are entirely hidden. So that's the direction policy is going, points out David Leonhardt, even among supposedly market-loving Republicans: Accepting higher costs is especially hard when the economy is weak. So Congressional Democrats have been repackaging their energy bills to make them look less and less market-oriented.

Is Lugar's "Plan B" For Energy Any Good?
June 09, 2010

Now that Lindsey Graham is bailing on the climate bill he helped write, does he have any other bright ideas? Sort of. Earlier today he appeared at a press conference in support of Indiana Republican Richard Lugar's new energy bill. Yes, this is exactly the sort of energy-only bill that Graham himself once derided as "half-assed." What's more, as Kate Sheppard reports, Graham seems to have backtracked so much from his old views that he's now spouting a lot of nonsense about climate science. But hey, Graham's confusions and self-contradictions are old news by now. What about the Lugar bill?