Republicans want to reduce the size of the federal government, and they won’t take no for an answer. “I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub,” Grover Norquist famously declared. And in negotiations over the fiscal cliff, they have insisted on cutting spending rather than raising taxes. “The President wants to pretend that spending isn’t the problem,” House Speaker John Boehner has complained. Democrats, for their part, have responded defensively.
Writing about his obsession with art books in a wonderful little volume published this year—Phantoms on the Bookshelves—Jacques Bonnet says that “Images send you on to other images, artists to other artists, periods come one after another or echo each other, all with their cargo of art works.” And so it is when I think back on remarkable art experienced in the year just past.
JARED BERNSTEIN, a Washington wonk and former economic adviser to Joe Biden, recently posed an interesting question. Why is it, Bernstein asked on his blog, that the only part of the government acting with any urgency to ease joblessness—the economic problem affecting the greatest number of Americans—is the unelected Federal Reserve? Bernstein was referring to Chairman Ben Bernanke’s announcement that the Fed would keep interest rates close to zero as long as unemployment remained above 6.5 percent.
IN SEPTEMBER of 2011, a fortyish budget connoisseur named Maya MacGuineas was feeling demoralized. She couldn’t believe that Congress and the president had nearly let the country default on its debt rather than reach a major deficit-cutting deal the previous summer. So she did what she had become unofficially famous for in the wonk circles of Washington: She threw a glamorous dinner party. MacGuineas’s friend, Virginia Senator Mark Warner, agreed to open his Alexandria estate to a coterie of bold-faced names.