Sunday, April 27, 2003

What A Long, Strange Week It Has Been

This Wouldn't Happen if Willie Sutton Ran the IRS

Does anyone else think the IRS's latest plan will not be cost-effective? Or is that the point?

Where's Robert Bartley Going to be in 2009?

Eric Alterman asked what he could have said about Rick Santorum's comments that didn't involve sexual fantasies? Well, how about a comparison of GDP growth in the 1950s (which he disparaged) and the past few years? Or noting that, per the Federal Budget, those families he claims to be so friendly to paid a lower percentage of Federal receipts (note: link is an Excel spreadsheet—even excluding Social Security—than he and his ilk were promising even if the whole $750B tax “cut” had gone through? Or that, even with that self-same tax cut, the FY 2004 budget only projected 10-year growth of 51% (2008 Estimate of $13,751.7B v. 1999 Actual of $9,137.7B), which is the lowest growth of any ten-year period except 1952-1961 and 1953-1962?

In fact, excluding those two years, the ten-year growth covered by 2002 Actual through 2008 Estimated (by the Administration) are the seven lowest GDP growth amounts for the data since 1940. Should we simply refer to the Bush Administration as Seven Lean Years?

Ban a Song, Win Cuts in Veteran's Benefits

I've decided that Clear Channel actually won the Dixie Chicks fight, thanks to an Atrios link also provided by Alterman. Yes, the album kept selling, but can you imagine if "Lonesome Soldier"--a sad song about a boy killed in Viet Nam while no one noticed except his wife--had been the #1 country song when the House voted to reduce veteran's benefits just as the invasion of Iraq started?

The Better Part of Valor?

Have finally started reading A Bright Shining Lie, and came across this: "He assumed that he and his fellow Americans had a right to take life and to spend it, as long as they did so with discretion, whenever killing and dying were necessary in their struggle." Ah, those were the days, when discretion didn't mean imprison/kill them and let G-d sort it out.

Of course, Texas is one of those states. But they have a new governor...

Nice to know that the Bush administration doesn't just hate the Northeast.

Why Haven't Wolfowitz and Perle and the rest of the Likudniks Suggested This?

So far, the push toward Iraqi democracy is more liable to justified lampooning than any real effort.

Here's a partial solution that would both prove that the United States didn't want to kill any Iraqi civilians and serve as a response to the funders of “suicide bombings”:

Give the immediate family of each Iraqi civilian killed US$10,000 as partial compensation for their loss. Also, the family of any conscripted Iraqi soldier who is KIA gets $5,000, as an acknowledgment that they were involuntary participants who defended their country: just the type of people needed in the push toward a new democracy.

The first, even if the approximation at Iraq Body Count is off by a factor of two, would cost around $5 million. When you're talking about spending at least $80 billion (that is, around 16,000 times that amount) on rebuilding, this is less than 1% of the amount budgeted to be paid to Halliburton just for putting out oil fires that didn't happen (or passed on to Boots and Coots). So we're talking surplus budget already.

Even if 100,000 Iraqi conscripts were killed—and there is no indication the number is that high—the total payout would be around $10 million. While I'm not about to try to compare that to the cost of, say, airlifting those 3,000 MPs in to protect anything in Baghdad that was not the Oil Ministry, this seems a small price to pay to buy some good will—or at least show good intentions.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

For the reader who has been waiting over two months for me to update the comment on the FY 2004 budget (if there is one), the main reason I haven't is that the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities provided the analysis than needed to be done (here it is in PDF form).

Of course, the only way to ensure that Social Security and Medicare shortfalls are "[not left] hanging over the heads of our children and grandchildren" is to eliminate the programs entirely. But the budget is oddly silent on when that will be done. (Best guess, the 2006 Budget.)
It should come as no surprise that the MTA acted fraudulently in getting its fare hike; it runs its budget the same way as the Shrub White House. And it's even less surprising that Iran (a nation that can MUCH more legitimately be described as a "terrorist threat" to the United States) is inciting anti-US sentiment in Iraq.

But today, I want to ask the real question: Does anyone else fear for Thomas Friedman's sanity? First, he suggested that the current administration will "stop thinking we have to remake our whole society, constrict all civil liberties, ban all Arab students and throw out all our foreign policy doctrines that have served us so well." Today, in an even bolder bifurcation of how the world is and how he wishes it were, he suggested that the administration will make a "natural deal" and "use their influence on Mr. Sharon to produce an immediate settlements freeze, the rollback of all illegal settlements and a resumption of negotiations after a new Palestinian security force, under a new prime minister, is in place."

Did someone drop brown acid in the Maryland/DC water? Or am I the only one who has no faith that this administration will do nothing for peace except Talk Tough?