March 17, 2009
Tax My Health Benefits. Please.
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.
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
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.
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.
Progress On Nonproliferation
The White House makes an announcement in a key area where personnel choices have moved regrettably slow: President Obama Announces Key State Department Appointment WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Rose Gottemoeller for Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance. President Obama said, “Turning the tide on the threat of nuclear weapons and strengthening the international non-proliferation regime is one of the great and urgent challenges of our time.
Private Insurers, Not So Efficient
The rationale for letting Medicare recipients enroll in private plans has always been that the private plans offere innovation and efficiency not available in the traditional, government-run plan. But the numbers have always told a different story. It costs the government more, not less, every time a Medicare beneficiary enrolls in one of the private Medicare Advantage plans.
This is a tad dated, but I just went back and read over Obama's remarks to the Business Roundtable last Thursday. The portions dealing with climate policy are, if not newsworthy, at least nicely indicative of the administration's thinking on the subject. For starters, Obama isn't swayed by the argument that a recession is a horrible time to cap carbon emissions. As he points out, any cap-and-trade system passed this session wouldn't get chugging along until 2012 at the earliest, at which point we should be out of this economic crisis (if not, we've got even bigger problems).
Aig's Off-again, On-again Bonuses
Looks like the AIG derivatives wizards are going to get their bonuses after all. Per the Journal: Treasury has determined there is no way the government can actually extract the money from the individuals who already received the bonus payments. The government would face lawsuits with the potential of significant damage payouts and lawyer fees that could easily exceed the cost of the bonuses. Instead, the administration said it will use a $30 billion installment of bailout funds approved March 2, to bring some pressure to bear on AIG.
Today At Tnr (march 17, 2009)
Shame The Bastards: A Feisty Proposal To Keep Executive Pay in Check, by Pepper D. Culpepper How Much Are Business Schools To Blame For The Current Financial Crisis? by Bradford Plumer Tax My Health Benefits. Please. (Or: How A Little Hypocrisy Could Make Health Reform Possible.) by Jonathan Cohn TNRtv: Is Europe Free-Riding On U.S. Stimulus Initiatives? by John Judis Don't Even Bother Trying To Separate Classical Music From Politics, by Alan Wolfe Free Larry Summers: Why The White House Needs To Unshackle Its Economic Oracle, by Noam Scheiber Killer Peanuts! Toxic Melons!