February 23, 2009
'Silence is Suicide!'
Sacramento, California A 12-foot inflatable ATM machine sat outside the Sacramento Hyatt this past weekend, emblazoned with the words “California Taxpayers--Already Taxed To The Max!” The display was one of many illustrations of the anger of delegates here at the California Republican Convention, which met just days after a handful of Republicans in the state legislature broke party ranks to vote for a budget that included $12 billion in new taxes.
AKRON, Ohio--When President Obama addresses the nation on Tuesday, he should not be distracted by Washington's obsessions over partisanship and ideology. He needs, above all, to speak to the country's raw fear.In our battered industrial heartland, there is also a strong sentiment that the president should disentangle himself from Washington as much as possible, hard as that may be for a man who now lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. His obligation is to be the nation's leader, not the capital's ringmaster.
More Pain For McCain?
Since losing to Obama in November, Senator John McCain has conspicuously focused attention on his home state of Arizona, where he plans to run for his fifth term in 2010. The Arizona Republic recently reported that, in the few months since the presidential election, McCain has taken renewed interest in meeting with elected officials and getting up to speed on local issues. And, when he’s been in D.C., McCain has squashed any hope that he would revisit his “maverick” phase, circa 2001, by becoming a Republican friend to the White House.
Don't Forget The Rest Of The Budget
Ezra Klein, in his article on the White House fiscal responsibility summit that Jon linked to earlier, posts the above chart and says: Government spending and Social Security, it says, will hold relatively constant in coming years. It's Medicare and Medicaid that chew up federal spending. Isn't that second sentence sort of an odd interpretation of this chart? Clearly, the projected growth rate of health care costs is unsustainable, and finding ways to change that ought to be, far and away, the country's top fiscal priority.
I saw the news on Reuters right after I noticed in Ha'aretz that Qatar, one of the world's wealthiest countries, was contributing the handsome sum of $40 million to its suffering brothers and sisters in Gaza. That won't break Qatar's bank. It's tip money for them. But America's bank is already broken. Or at least that's what the president is telling us. And no one can say that he's lying. Hillary Clinton is going to Egypt to meet with our Quartet partners in cohort with a conference especially convened to plan assistance for the Strip and its people.
Just now at the fiscal responsibility summit, budget director Peter Orszag reiterated President Obama's commitment to reforming health care this year. America faces as an entitlements problem, but, Orszag reminded everybody, "Health care reform is entitlement reform." This was after an introduction by Bob Greenstein, longtime director of the Center for Budget and Policy and Priorities, who made the same essential point. And, yes, Senator John McCain was among the many conservatives in attendance.
Liberals Vs. Centrists
This is a pretty long, meta blog post. You've been warned. But try to stay with me here.
Still worried today's fiscal responsibility summit means there's a secret plan to cut Social Security? Then pay attention to Peter Orszag, Obama's budget director and bona fide fiscal conservative, who said this on CNN this morning: "Health care is clearly the key to our fiscal future, so we need to get health care costs under control and we want to do that this year." It's all about health care. And this administration knows it. Update: Paul Krugman has a wonderfully simple explanation of why this is the case. --Jonathan Cohn
February 22, 2009
Obama's Truly Courageous Budget Move
On Friday I argued that, while the president's push to make his budget honest and transparent was great public policy, it wasn't quite as courageous as the White House suggested. But there is one element of Obama's first budget that strikes me as genuinely courageous.
The Elusiveness Of Compromises
Sunday's op-ed page in the New York Times includes two essays about how to end the culture wars. In one, Slate's William Saletan argues that liberals should seek to lower the number of abortions by strongly advocating the use of birth control. This is a splendid idea, and not only because it might lead to fewer abortions. It would also divide the religious right, pitting ultramontaine Catholics against (comparatively moderate) Protestant evangelicals who don't oppose the use of birth control.