links for 2011-02-14

  • Good for Anderson Cooper for calling a lie a lie. Generally media outlets are reluctant to be frank about this sort of thing, which lets politicians get away with lying, and pretty routinely.
  • The economist points out that most of what Congressional Republicans propose to cut are programs that won't hurt us now, but will hurt us terribly in the long run. (Cutting half a billion dollars from the IRS enforcement budget? Unless IRS enforcement is incredibly inefficient, that makes zero sense.) This despite the fact that polls make clear that Americans want reduced spending in the abstract, but really don't support cutting spending in any meaningful areas. We're witnessing the resetting of the cycle by which Republicans create a big mess that Democrats have to clean up.
  • Twenty signs that your opinions function more to signal loyalty and ability than to estimate truth. It's an awfully interesting list. I'm happy to say that I exhibit only few of these signs (at least that I perceive), though that clearly leaves room for improvement.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

9 replies on “links for 2011-02-14”

  1. Re: the commission of journalism

    I don’t think most journalists are guilty of the reluctance to call a spade a spade nearly so much as politicians expecting us to buy into the abyss of completely nonsensical answers (of course there are journalists and then there are “journalists“).

    My political media guru is Chris Matthews. The reason I like him is because he’s extremely knowledgeable and he’s fair. Though he’s liberal, he’ll call out liberals who make no sense or are clearly lying (and he always has the facts and usually the videotape to back it up) as quickly as he will call out conservatives for the same. However, the entire political arena has become so laughably (or infuriatingly) ridiculous, as we routinely see politicians denying one thing or another even when presented with video proof to the contrary. When a politician is caught dead-bang in glaring lies and/or ignorance, or both, e.g., Michele Bachmann expounding on the founding fathers working tirelessly to eradicate slavery, well, it seems to always come back to the old adage — to the faithful, no explanation is necessary; to the unfaithful, no explanation will do.

    Which get into Overcoming Bias… : )

  2. re:the budget

    This is what I hate about politics. I thought the issue was long term deficits caused primarily by health care spending. But Obama has conceded the point to Republicans that the issue is short-term deficits and that the problem is primarily non-defense discretionary spending. We’re not going to deal with taxation, Medicare, Medicaid, the defense budget, the real issues?

  3. I disagree, tx2vadem. Paul Ryan has already said that the budget for next year will include “serious entitlement reform.” This year’s budget has just tried to been rushed through since they were operating on a CR that the Democrats passed last year and not an actual budget.

    I don’t think Obama has conceded any point to the Republicans because everybody (well, not everybody) knows that the main drivers of our debt are SS, Medicare, and Medicaid.

    We’ll have to see how serious the Republicans are when the 2012 budget is proposed, and if Rep. Ryan keeps his word.

  4. 1) Representative Paul Ryan says lots of things, and he is very handsome young man. He has yet to deliver anything, and with John Boehner as speaker it doesn’t look promising.
    2) Social Security does NOT drive our debt. It continues to take in more than it pays out.

  5. I don’t know all of the minute details, Bubby, but there is “debt” in Social Security.

    SS does take in more than it pays out. For now. Maybe. (“This year alone, Social Security is projected to collect $45 billion less in payroll taxes than it pays out in retirement, disability and survivor benefits, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday.”) Any surplusses remain in the SS trust fund.

    There is a “SS Trust Fund”, but it’s full of Treasury Bonds (and more bonds equal to the interest that would normally be paid on the other bonds) since any surplusses were taken for other spending. These are real obligations that the US Government will be required to pay. Estimates differ on when the treasury bonds will be all used up, ranging from 2037 to 2046.

    So while it’s not really debt, it is a biiiiiiig bill (something like 2.5 Trillion dollars) that will have to get paid sometime. If you want to keep it off the official debt books, that’s fine, but we can’t pretend that SS is fine and dandy the way it is.

  6. My point is that when Republican politicians tell their followers that Social Security is an unsustainable burden on the nation, they neglect to mention that they have happily borrowed from it’s trust fund, and starved it of revenue for years in the hope that this signature safety net from the New Deal will fail.

  7. Applauding your response Bubby. Just like us State employees in VA being asked to shore up VRS because the GA used that funding to balance the budget the last 20 years.

  8. Social Security (Old Age and Survivors Insurance, OASI) is still a very minor issue. When you think about why is the trust fund collecting less money this year, remember that you are paying 2% less as an individual into the fund via payroll taxes. In terms of fixing a problem occurring ~30 years from now, it is easy to do and the least of governments problems. Minor tweaks can fix it (without doing something ridiculous like raising the retirement age further). And it is is easy because OASI is a defined benefit.

    Medicare and Medicaid payments are highly variable. What we have now from health care reform are a lot of test programs to reduce cost, like the Medicare Advisory Board, assuming Congress doesn’t gut these at the AMA’s request. The deficit commission had a few recommendations, but nothing that with any degree of certainty was going to achieve their reductions in health care spending.

    Paul Ryan has a plan. He wants to convert the two into voucher programs and reduce the amount of the voucher each year. I’d like to see Republicans bring that to a floor vote. It is a career limiting move. But what’s that about fools rush in where angels fear to tread? And really, the party that raged against alleged death panels would want to pull the plug on grandma when the voucher amount was exhausted? I doubt it. They aren’t going to go out on limb if the president and Democrats are going to leave them out their alone. Instead they are going to cut good programs that have small constituencies.

  9. Yes, Social Security will soon be costing more than it brings in. That’s been expected since the 1980s, when SS taxes were raised so that they brought in more than was being spent, with the idea that that surplus would then be used in the years when costs were higher. If suddenly we’re going to pretend that that surplus doesn’t exist and is just “meaningless IOUs”, then workers who’ve been paying extra in payroll taxes for decades deserve to have all that money refunded. SS “reform” is a straight-up scam transferring money from the poor and middle class, who’ve been paying most of the SS taxes, to the rich, who’ve benefited most from the lower income taxes those SS surpluses made possible.

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