March 22, 2009
Love's Labor's Lost
As the leftist Labor Party slowly awakens from the shock of winning only 13 seats in Israel's elections last month (a historical low for the party), Ehud Barak has begun pushing his party to join Binyamin Netanyahu’s fledgling right-wing coalition. His critics paint him as narcissistic opportunist who is sacrificing his party's future to save his own career. His supporters claim he is putting the interest of the country before that of the party. This Tuesday, the party's central committee will convene to vote on whether to accept or reject Netanyahu’s proposal.
Jonathan Gruber is a professor of economics at the Massachsuetts Institute of Technology, an adviser to the nation's top policy-makers on health care, and--as readers of this space know--a frequent source for expertise on The Treatment. He was an architect of the Massachusetts health reforms and now serves on the board of the Massachusetts Connector, which oversees that program.
March 21, 2009
"path Of Least Crankiness"
Joe Klein (and Andrew, who flagged his column for me) kind of sum up my feelings about the Obama administration at the moment: I'm taking the path of least crankiness in the early days of this new Administration. Sure, I'm worried that Obama isn't dealing decisively enough with the banking crisis--but, on the other hand, this is uncharted territory and maybe a cautious, case-by-case strategy will prove to be the right one.
The Bank Plan Cometh
The key details, per the Times: The plan to be announced next week involves three approaches. In one, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation would set up special-purpose investment partnerships and lend about 85 percent of the money those partnerships would need to buy up portfolios of mortgage assets that banks want to sell.
Today At Tnr (march 21, 2009)
How Lincoln Won The War--And Why He's Our Country's Greatest Argument Against Despair In Dark Times, by Drew Gilpin Faust Why It's Time For The White House To Unleash Larry Summers, Its Genius-In-Residence, by Noam Scheiber Will Our New Special Envoy To Darfur Change Our Policies There? by Barron YoungSmith What The Ozone Scare Can--And Can't--Teach Us About Finding A Solution For Climate Change, by Bradford Plumer 'Duplicity' Has Clive Owen And Julia Roberts As Conniving Spy/Lovers. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
March 20, 2009
The Geithner Disaster
Being Treasury secretary is usually not a job that calls for great political skills. But with a banking crisis crippling the economy and threatening to turn a recession into a depression, Tim Geithner has been plunged into the center of politics--as both the person responsible for what the administration should do, and as the main exponent of that policy. But he has faltered in crafting an effective policy and failed miserably in putting it forward.
Late Friday Obama Agenda Update
Brad and Marc Ambinder say that George Stephanopoulos has a big scoop: Democrats have chosen to put health care but not cap and trade through the "reconciliation" process, which probably means that health care will pass but cap and trade won't. But I'm not sure Stephanopoulos actually has the goods here. Here's Stephanopoulos's item: When the White House released its budget, I said the president's effort to reform health care and cap carbon emissions were "scorpions in a bottle" -- only one could make it through Congress this year.
OMB director Peter Orszag makes some fair points in response to a lot of the angst the new CBO deficit numbers are inspiring in some quarters.
As noted on The Treatment, the Congressional Budget Office is out with its new budget projections. And the bottom line is that CBO expects deficits will be worse than the administration, among others, have been predicting. They will be worse in the near term. And, yes, they will be worse in the long term. These sorts of projections are notoriously rough. And the CBO seems to be making some pessimistic assumptions about future growth, although--given the latest economic data--pessimism does't necessarily seem far fetched. In any event, it's hard to spin this as good news.
Barak Bites The Hand That Feeds Him
In response to reports that Israeli soldiers shot unarmed civilians in Gaza, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said: The Israeli Army is the most moral in the world, and I know what I’m talking about because I know what took place in the former Yugoslavia, in Iraq. Now, he might be referencing the former regimes of Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein. But isn't it more likely to be a not-so-subtle dig at the United States military's human rights record? After all, why would he bother to favorably compare the IDF to the armies of two ruthless dictators?