March 27, 2009
Things Obama Didn't Explain
Obama's speech promised benchmarks and metrics to measure our progress in AfPak. But what are they? That's the really hard question. There may be a White House backgrounder on this point that I haven't seen. But to me the speech sounded like a vow to set benchmarks, not an explanation of what they'll be, As for an ultimate goal, this is how Obama put it: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future. Okay, but where is the point at which we're confident al Qaeda won't be coming back?
March 26, 2009
Last week, lawmakers dashed to the podiums of Capitol Hill to condemn AIG and the rest of those bonus-loving scoundrels on Wall Street. But not long before that, some of those same members had been dashing to fundraisers with the very financial bogeymen they were now skewering. Indeed, the line between friend and target is a fine one in Washington, and often the line moves from month to month.
A Truth Deficit
WASHINGTON -- The debate on the budget is phony, the howling on deficits a charade. Few politicians want to acknowledge that if you really are concerned about long-term deficits, you have to support tax increases. That's why the most significant moment of President Obama's news conference on Tuesday was not his dodge of a question on AIG, but his defense of the least popular tax increase in his budget: limits on the benefits wealthier taxpayers get for their charitable contributions and mortgage payments.It has been a long time since a president was willing to defend raising taxes.
Politico Gets It Right
I've railed on Politico for being too business-friendly in the past, so it's incumbent onme to point out when they're on the right track. This morning Eamon Javers writes up a brilliant, scathing critique of the Administration's new regulatory plan, essentially arguing that it's just low-hanging fruit and fails to deliver the sort of thorough reform the system needs.
March 25, 2009
When Curt Schilling announced his baseball retirement Monday by grandly proclaiming on his blog, “This party has officially ended,” I couldn’t help thinking of the greatest movie of all time, Anchorman, and the party scene at Ron Burgundy’s house in which Ron (Will Ferrell) turns to Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and announces: “We’ve been coming to the same party for twelve years now, and in no way is that depressing.” Why? Because Curt Schilling was baseball’s Ron Burgundy.
March 24, 2009
Test By Walter Shapiro
Race still matters. Despite the election of President Barack Obama, shattering one of the nation’s most significant glass ceilings, discrimination is not “elusive” as John McWhorter concludes in his column “Birthday Bash.” Take virtually any indicator and a portrait of inequality is painted: Black unemployment perennially remains twice that of whites. When white unemployment was 9.8 percent in 1982, it was considered an unacceptable crisis. Blacks today have an unemployment rate over 12 percent and climbing. Median earnings for black men is 74.2 percent of the median for white men.
...didn't quite make sense to me. As I heard it, the question was something like: Your Treasury secretary asked Congress today for more authority to reorganize large, troubled financial institutions like AIG. In light of the recent controversies like last week's bonus scandal, why should we trust your administration with that authority? Huh? Aren't the abuses precisely the reason you'd want to give the administration more authority?
Health Wonk In Chief
This will surprise no regular Treatment reader, I know, but President Obama is currently conducting a superb seminar on the economics of health care--and why getting health care costs under control is the key to our fiscal future. I don't always agree with Obama on health policy. (See "Individual mandates, 2008 campaign debate.") But it's very reassuring to hear the president speak so confidently, and astutely, about the problems of our health care system. --Jonathan Cohn
This week, budget committee chairmen in the House (John Spratt) and Senate (Kent Conrad) get to do what President Obama got to do last month: Unveil a vision for how the government should handle its finances. And we already have a pretty good idea of what those visions will look like, at least as far as health care goes. Both will propose the creation of some sort of health reserve fund, from which comprehensive reform can draw its financing. Neither will specify how big the fund should be.