March 18, 2009

They Were Against It Before They Were For It
12:00 AM

This week, Republican leaders have leapt to join the populist outcry against the bonuses that ailing insurance giant AIG has awarded its executives. But such rants against executive earnings mark a remarkable about-face for the right flank of the party, which condemned President Obama's decision to set limits on executive pay just last month. "I really don't want the government to take over these businesses and start telling them everything about what they can do." Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told ABC News in February, when asked about Obama's proposed limits on executive compensation.

Revising Those Budget Numbers...
12:00 AM

Noteworthy scoop from The Wall Street Journal: Back in February, it turns out, White House economic adviser Jason Furman was telling Senate staffers that the administration's cap-and-trade proposal would probably a lot more revenue than was projected in the budget. Like, up to $1.9 trillion over ten years instead of $646 billion. That basically means the White House is expecting the cap to be a lot more stringent than the budget intimated.

Orszag: We (still) Won't Rule Out Reconciliation
12:00 AM

  Budget director Peter Orszag made clear on Tuesday that the administration still won't rule out the use of reconciliation to pass legislation, should Republicans in the Senate try to filibuster health care reform or any other major initiatives. Reconciliaton, for those not familiar with the term, is the process for deliberating the budget in the Senate. Time and amendments are limited, which means filibusters won't work. Instead of sixty votes, the requirement for overcoming a filibuster, legislation can pass with just fifty.

Your Morning Aig Roundup
12:00 AM

Two interesting nuggets today. First, in The Washington Post, a former AIG Financial Products official suggests the unit doesn't actually need to be so concerned with retaining personnel--because only a fraction of its employees are actually necessary now: AIG, which received more than $170 billion in emergency federal aid, has become the chief exhibit for both sides of the debate. Executives say they must pay retention bonuses to keep employees who are unwinding its Financial Products division, which nearly brought down the insurance giant with trading in exotic derivatives.

March 17, 2009

The TNR Roundtable Part 10: What Should Obama Do About Darfur?
12:00 AM

Click here to read Part 9: Is Darfur really genocide? That is the central question.Click here for links to each part of the conversation.From: Elizabeth RubinTo: Alex de Waal, Richard Just, Andrew Natsios, Eric Reeves, Alan WolfeShortly after the ICC announcement, I sent an email to an old friend in Darfur whom I've been out of touch with to see how he was handling the consequences of the indictment and whether he regretted it given Bashir's reaction. On March 8, he wrote back:     Iam really greatfull and happy to hear about you, after this very long time of      silence! How are you doing?

Tax My Health Benefits. Please.
12:00 AM

During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama famously and effectively attacked John McCain for threatening to eliminate the tax exclusion for group health insurance. “For the first time in American history, he wants to tax your health benefits,” Obama said in a typical flourish. “Apparently, Senator McCain doesn’t think it’s enough that your health premiums have doubled.

How to Succeed in Regulating Business
12:00 AM

If you think executives who drive their companies to the brink of ruin don’t deserve lavish bonuses, you probably feel pretty good right now. After all, the current storm of public outrage against executive excess--whose signature moment was the tongue-lashing Representative Barney Frank bestowed on the titans of finance who appeared before his congressional committee last month--has finally resulted in real legislative action on pay-for-performance.

A Happy Return

There are absolutely no limits to bad faith in politics. The grotesquely laughable debate about France’s place in NATO is just the latest example. First, it is not correct to speak, as people are doing everywhere, of France’s “return” to the alliance. This is because France never actually left NATO. In 1966, under the leadership of President Charles de Gaulle, France left NATO’s integrated military command, but it didn’t leave the political council. According to French Defense Minister Herve Morin, France participates, and has always participated, in 36 of the 38 NATO committees.

A Letter To Khamenei
12:00 AM

Sounds like it might be in the works: A senior Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters that he expected the letter to be sent to Mr Khamenei before the Iranian elections this summer, although Washington's allies would prefer this step to be taken after the vote, to avoid influencing the election. The last time reports about a letter to Iran circulated, the White House emphatically denied it. But last week a State Department spokesman said he did not have anything to say about a letter, adding that he would not discuss the options being considered.

Democracy, Part Ii: What Is It Good For?
12:00 AM

Ezra Klein has some thoughts on whether democracies--particularly our version--can respond effectively to economic crisis, a question I raised yesterday: Congress has been pretty pliant amidst all the rapid-fire bank bailouts and even the stimulus package. Republicans have been truculent about the stimulus, but truculence is also the luxury of the minority. If they were in the majority, they'd probably be much more constructive as they could claim credit for the recovery. Indeed, I think our political system is actually fairly well-designed for short-term crises.