- Planet Money: What If We Paid Off The Debt?
Back in the good old days—before President George W. Bush, before fighting two wars, before September 11th, before a huge tax cut paid for with debt—it looked very much like the entire debt would be paid off by 2012. In producing the final Economic Report of the President, a researcher looked into what would happen when that happened. As it turned out, it would be terrible. Treasury bonds make the investment world go 'round. No debt, no t-bonds. The conclusion of the never-published report was that it was important to maintain some debt in order to maintain treasury bonds.
- The New York World: Women ride in back on sex-segregated Brooklyn bus line
A Brooklyn bus—part of the city's public bus line—is franchised to a private company, though generally indistinguishable from any other city bus, intended to serve the Hasidic community in Williamsburg and Borough Park. It's the bus line's rule that women have to sit in the back of the bus. You can see how this story progresses. The issue of religious freedom vs. civil rights vs. free enterprise isn't wholly open-and-shut but, as a rule, anybody making an argument that a certain class of people should have to sit in the back of the bus automatically loses the debate.
- American Geophysical Union: Words matter
This vocabulary guide accompanies an article ("Communicating the Science of Climate Change") in the October issue of Physics Today, explaining to research scientists that some of the words that they use to communicate among themselves simply confuse the public. "Manipulation" of data means simply to process it, but the public thinks it means to tamper with it. A "scheme" is just a plan, but that's perceived as being illicit. A "theory" is the basic unit of scientific knowledge, but people think a theory is different from a fact. These are important, as has been observed with natural selection ("evolution is just a theory!") and global climate change ("those hacked e-mails said that were manipulating the data!").
- New York Times: A Tipping Point for Gay Marriage?
With the government unable to muster a legally defensible argument against gay marriage, it's amazing that the House of Representatives went ahead and hired their own private law firm to carry on the right. But it's more amazing still that the law firm dropped the case, finding the Republican majority's position impractical to defend. This looks like the beginning of the end of anti-gay discrimination. My children will almost certainly not know a world in which marriage is only for opposite-sex couples.
- Salon.com: "USA! USA!" is the wrong response
I'm glad to see that others share my discomfort with some of the reaction to the death of Osama bin Laden. "In the years since 9/11, we have begun vaguely mimicking those we say we despise, sometimes celebrating bloodshed against those we see as Bad Guys just as vigorously as our enemies celebrate bloodshed against innocent Americans they (wrongly) deem as Bad Guys."
- The Independent: Bush rejects Taliban offer to surrender bin Laden
Remember when the Taliban offered to hand over Osama bin Laden to the U.S., the President Bush rejected the offer? That was in October 2001, a week after we started bombing. Bush's response? "When I said no negotiations I meant no negotiations."
- The Washington Post: How the U.S., on the road to surplus, detoured to massive debt
In case you've forgotten how we went from record surpluses to record deficits in a decade (hint: you have), the Post recounts the story of how President Bush blew President Clinton's carefully crafted budget by going on the largest-ever tax-cutting spree, recklessly distributing our nation's wealth to the nation's wealthiest.
- Wall Street Journal: Jobless claims
The WSJ put a sparkline in a tweet. *swoon*
Reader FW writes:
I was curious about the stock market’s performance during the Clinton era vs the Bush era so I looked up historical Dow Jones Industrial Average data. I thought you might be interested in the results.
11/02/92 – Last market close before 1992 election 3262.21
11/06/00 – Last market close before 2000 election 10977.21
09/17/08 – market closed @ 10609.66
From just before the 1992 election to just before the 2000 election, the stock market rose by 336%. From just before the 2000 election to the present (9/17/08), the market has FALLEN 3.3%. But gotta look on the bright side – oil company and Halliburton profits are way up!
This is a message that Democrats really need to do a better job of getting out. Much like Obama needs to do a better job of getting out the message that he’ll cut taxes more than McCain will for everybody but the superrich. We do better for the country economically, though I think that we’re at our best in that regard with Republicans running a chamber of the legislature, preferably the Senate.