December 08, 2008

Money For Detroit--and A Czar To Hand It Out
12:00 AM

By late Monday night, a rescue for the nation's ailing automakers was looking a lot more likely. Democratic House leaders released the draft of a new plan and White House officials, though raising some objections, indicated that agreement on a package was close. Senate Democrats remained nervous that they might not yet have the votes in their chamber, where it would take 60 votes to break a Republican filibuster.

Fellow Conservatives: Obama May Not Have Been Born In The United States. So What?
12:00 AM

David Horowitz has a short piece at Politico today on the matter of those people still peddling the conspiracy theory that Obama was not born in Hawaii, and that his birth certificate claiming as such is a fake. Horowitz warns his fellow conservatives (and, implicitly, quite a few PUMAs) not to fall victim to "Obama Derangement Syndrome." The article is prompted by today's Supreme Court decision not to hear a case alleging that Obama had dual nationality at birth due to his father's being a British subject, which, if valid, would render the President-Elect not a "natural born citizen" and thus

Obama's Far-flung Climate Team
12:00 AM

So energy and environment types are still waiting for Obama to appoint someone—anyone—to the EPA, Department of Energy, or Interior Department, to say nothing of Agriculture and Transportation. What's the hold-up? By some accounts, Obama's aides are debating whether to create a brand new position that would oversee the administration's climate/energy strategy and coordinate efforts among different agencies. I'm loath to use the bizarrely prevalent term "czar" here, but what's a better word?

Some Good News For Working America
12:00 AM

Today most economists to the left of center will tell you that inequality has been rising for about thirty years, thanks to broader changes in the economy and government's failure to compensate adequately for them. But in the late 1990s, when the economy was humming along, not too many people were making a fuss about this.  Among the few exceptions were Jared Bernstein and his colleagues at the Economic Policy Institute--who repeatedly warned that lower- and middle-income people were not getting their share.

Transition News 12/08
12:00 AM

Supreme Court declines to hear Obama's citizenship case. Eric Shinseki, who doubted Iraq strategy, tapped for veterans affairs. Obama supports laid-off Illinois workers occupying a factory. How Obama can influence the federal judicial bench. Slate describes the two changes Gates wants to bring to the Pentagon. Obama urges for an auto bailout, and could have power over the funding. Liberals feel left out of the Cabinet appointment bonanza. Sebelius says she's out of the running for secretary spots.

Bill Kristol Is ... Making Sense?
12:00 AM

Bill Kristol, in a remarkably thoughtful and sober-minded column (at least relative to this past year's output), makes the case today against reflexive, small-government conservatism. He writes: But conservatives should think twice before charging into battle against Obama under the banner of “small-government conservatism.” It’s a banner many Republicans and conservatives have rediscovered since the election and have been waving around energetically.

Weekend At Larry's
12:00 AM

The Times ran two interesting pieces this weekend hinting at problems with having Larry Summers as head of the National Economic Council--basically the top White House economic aide. They both raise legitimate points, but the objections are ultimately overstated, I think. The first, by Jodi Kantor and Javier Hernandez, is a fascinating account of Summers' post-Harvard rebirth, and is the more gentle of the two pieces. It includes the following riff: As the head of the National Economic Council, he will play two roles: counseling the president and nurturing the proposals of others.

December 05, 2008

The Upside of Catastrophe
12:00 AM

WASHINGTON--The concept of "found money" is delightful. We cherish the cash that turns up under the bed, in a coat pocket, or in a long-forgotten bank account. And found money may be key to the success of Barack Obama's presidency. No, the federal government isn't going to discover new billions under some rock in a national park. But with the economic downturn, the new president's imperative will be to spend as fast as he can, to the tune of perhaps $500 billion, to keep the economy from going belly up. That's a huge reversal of the normal pattern.

Education Wars
12:00 AM

In November, Barack Obama bewildered education reformers by tapping Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford professor who had advised his campaign, to oversee the transition’s education policy team. Their verdict was swift and harsh. “Worst case scenario,” wrote Mike Petrilli, vice president for national programs and policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think tank, the day after The Wall Street Journal leaked the news. “This is a sign that the president-elect isn’t a bona fide reformer,” he later told me.

Bad Service
12:00 AM

As pundits exult over the latest Obama administration appointments--Hillary Clinton! Robert Gates! Bill Richardson!--short shrift has been given to a much larger group of federal employees who will play a critical role in the new presidency. Political appointees come and go, but the 1.8 million civil servants who spend their careers in the federal government are forever--at least until recently. Almost half that workforce could leave government by 2012, leaving the new administration scrambling to keep basic services running, much less implementing major new initiatives.