The 2013 State of the Union and the GOP Response

NoneAfter watching the State of the Union address, Sen. Marco Rubio’s response on behalf of the GOP, reading some blogs and tweets and ruminating on all of it while doing the dishes, here are some of my take-aways. 

On the economy—the issue many were predicting to be forefront of the address—the president was vague and defensive.  He highlighted that consumers were now protected while the fact that Americans still aren’t consuming hung heavy in the air.  Same with the remark that we have “cleared away the rubble of crisis,” acknowledging recovery still eludes us.  He pleaded with lawmakers to make “basic decisions” about the budget, but the basics are precisely where we’ve been stuck.  We already know the sequester would be “harsh.”  Sen. Rubio at least reminded Americans the sequester was Obama’s idea. 

I was surprised early on when the president said that cutting Medicare and Social Security would be even worse than cutting education, that these entitlements for the elderly are more important than educating our youth.  The remark earned a standing ovation from his party.

Still plenty of “fair share” rhetoric.  As readers here know, that kind of talk bothers me quite a bit because I get the sense that, for the president, wealth disparity is a moral wrong in itself.  Were he to tie the idea to tax reform, he might get me on board.  As it was, the tax reform remarks seemed designed to portray his opponents as the only ones guilty of giving favors.  I found it interesting that his most impassioned attack against corporate loopholes received only tepid applause. 

The president announced we are suffering from a crisis of crises, suggesting they were being “manufactured” by Congress.  (As many will recall, it was the president’s own chief of staff four years ago who uttered the immortal line about never letting a good crisis go to waste.)  The president seemed to be referring to Republicans’ positions on spending cuts to address the growing debt and deficit.  Far from “manufacturing” a crisis, Republicans believe the debt and deficit is already a crisis, or at least one in the making that requires prompt and meaningful action.  Moreover, as the president made clear later on with his impassioned plea to address the crisis of gun violence (“they deserve a vote!”) and climate change (we’re “all in” on clean energy!), he’s not done governing via crisis as long as it’s the right kind of crisis. 

The president did promise we would not see “a single dime” added to the deficit, and that we would not get a “bigger” government on his watch, just a “smarter” one.  This was the most conciliatory line in the address concerning philosophy of government. 

Several references to new investments, like 3D printing.  I’m in favor of necessary infrastructure investments:  so long as our economy is going to grow (an existential assumption everyone is willing to make), then roads, water, waste disposal, and other basic infrastructure is a no-brainer.  But government-as-venture capitalist in things like 3D printing and high speed rail (“ask any CEO”? really?) are far beyond what I’m comfortable having government get involved with.  The president’s awkward joke, which fell flat (“I’ve seen all those ribbon cuttings”), speaks to how well these kinds of investments have worked so far. 

I was puzzled at the president’s plea to make more funds available so that more people could buy houses.  I’m not an economist, but isn’t that how the last housing bubble got started? 

Didn’t California try making preschool available for everyone, and wasn’t it a big boondoggle that didn’t work as hoped?  I’m sure the president is right that children who start school early do better in life.  I’m also willing to bet that’s as much or more to do with the fact they have parents who care enough about education to put them in preschool.  Putting that aside, I’d put this compromise to the president:  attach school choice to a preschool funding bill and you’ve got a deal. 

Totally agree about keeping college costs down.  I’m actually impressed the president proposed that, though I guess I should wait to see what kinds of programs he’s looking to defund. 

I’ll give the president this on his proposal to raise the minimum wage to $9 per hour: He’s committed to the “fairness” meme, even at the expense of opportunity.  The consensus seems to be that increasing the minimum wage increases unemployment.  And many of the people we wish to help—the people who make a living at minimum wage—don’t exist, as they typically stay at entry-level wages for only a short time.  Second household earners often work part-time, and part-time jobs are made even less available because of minimum-wage laws. 

I don’t know what the president has in mind when he says he wants to make voting “easier.”  I already worry about how ill-informed most voters are.  And how easy does voting have to be?  Perhaps I’m not allowed to pass judgment on this because I’m lucky enough to have the leisure time to engage in politics.  But here’s a reform I’d insist on in compromise:  Remove the role of secretaries of state and attorneys general in characterizing candidates and initiatives.  Just put the names of candidates without titles or backgrounds, and the numbers of initiatives.  Voters can read biographies of their candidates and the full text of proposed initiatives can be made available online, in public libraries, and in polling places.  If they don’t care enough to become minimally informed about their votes, they can self-select out.  As things stand, too many voters enter the polling place to place a single vote—for president, say—and wind up also voting for other candidates or issues based solely on the brief summaries supplied on the ballots.  And there is reason to suspect that secretaries of state and attorneys general skew those summaries for political reasons. 

And then we come to the dead children and Gabby Gifford who “deserve a vote” on gun control—apparently a legitimate crisis, in the president’s view.  I don’t have very strong views on background checks and most of the other proposals on offer, but the president’s demand for a vote was only a thinly veiled warning that a “no” vote would be tantamount to spitting on kids’ graves or something.  Also, no reference to Christopher Dorner, whose tour of terror puts a very different spin on the issue of guns and personal safety. 

I liked the president’s remarks near the end of the address about the need for and the meaning and obligation of fathers.  I also liked the remarks about the need for good citizenship, even though I suspect the president understands the “obligations” of citizenship differently than I do. 

PHOTO: U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., rehearsed the Republican address to the Nation, Feb. 12, 2013.

Senator Marco Rubio’s response was strong, particularly in light of the fact that responding to the State of the Union is an unenviable job.  He was gracious but tough with the president, highlighting differences in governing philosophy, that the president is wrong to find so many solutions in government.  He has a remarkable personal story and shared it warmly and effectively, explaining he has every intention to protecting Medicare for people like his mom, and his dad before losing his battle with cancer.  He also effectively ties in the fact that he not only sympathizes with the middle class, he still lives in his middle class neighborhood, relied on federal student loans, and just recently finished paying them off.  He uses these examples to effectively demonstrate that the new conservatism means protecting the solutions government already provides and people rely on, and that continuing to ignore needed reforms for the sake of rolling out new “job-killing” regulations and programs risks those existing programs—not to mention diminishes opportunities for middle class Americans. 

Sen. Rubio also explains how his party has gotten a bad rap, such as when they are accused of “wanting dirty water and dirty air” when resisting complex regulations, or “wanting to leave the elderly and disabled to fend for themselves” when pushing entitlement reforms.  It was heartening to imagine people listening to this genuine, reasoned response from a likely person like Rubio. 

If I had one suggestion for Sen. Rubio, other than staying better hydrated, it would have been to link the president’s call for tax reform to his repeated insistence for “fairness.”  Sen. Rubio is a darling of the Tea Party, and the Tea Party has a solid track record on attacking crony capitalism and tax loopholes.  This would have given a tangible example to illustrate how Republicans are every bit as much in favor of fairness as the president claims to be. 

266 thoughts on “The 2013 State of the Union and the GOP Response

  1. Also, no reference to Christopher Dorner, whose tour of terror puts a very different spin on the issue of guns and personal safety.

    Not to mention the LAPD’s continuing tour of such…

      

  2. Quite a few people had to wait many hours to vote, up to 6-7 hours in many cases. Who is much much less likely to be able to take an entire day off to vote? Are certain demographics less likely to be able to vote and would that help one party over another? A recent study estimated 200000 people in Florida couldn’t vote due to wait times. Is this fair? no no no…Fair isn’t a good word. Is it biased? Is it the way to run an election? Were there other efforts to limit certain demographics from voting?

      

  3. And how easy does voting have to be?

    Here is one possible answer: it has to be easy enough so that minorities and the poor don’t have to endure insane waits to actually participate in the political process.

      

      • Yes, people can get absentee ballots. Yet, somehow, all those republicans who are oh so concerned about voter fraud at the polls have nothing to say about the type of voting most open to fraud–the absentee ballot. Could it be because a large part of the Republican constituency, the elderly, avails itself of the absentee ballot?

          

          • And University of Oregon political scientist Priscilla Southwell did some studies of the fraud issue in the years after Oregon shifted to vote-by-mail and found no evidence of systemic fraud.

              

          • There’s no evidence of systemic fraud anywhere, yet we have things like this quote from the Republican House Leader in Pennsylvania:

            Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.

            I don’t know how to interpret that, other than

            1.A significant percentage of the Democratic vote is fraudulent, or
            2. I don’t know how to interpret that, other than “We can suppress the Democratic vote.”

            where there is no evidence whatsoever for 1.

              

          • James

            And University of Oregon political scientist Priscilla Southwell did some studies of the fraud issue in the years after Oregon shifted to vote-by-mail and found no evidence of systemic fraud.

            That’s true, but vote-by-mail systems can fail systemically in ways that in-person voting systems cannot.

            Just because nobody’s leveraged that failure doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

            (note: there are so many failure points in voting systems, generally, that this is like shooting fish in a barrel, but still)

              

          • Washington state has an all mail-in ballot as well. But since everyone has to vote by mail, it pretty much equalizes the playing field. I need to look up the stats, but I think absentee ballots in other states are utilized for the most part by the elderly and military personnel.

              

          • Michelle,

            I think you’re correct about who’s more likely to use absentee ballots, but there’s a few important dynamics to consider.

            First, Democrats have the capacity to respond by encouraging more Democrats to use absentee ballots, if they think that will increase their vote total. We’ve seen this occurring with the two parties both engaging in early-voting efforts in states that allow it.

            Second, if a state goes to all vote-by-mail, then the conservative advantage is effectively wiped out right there, unless there’s something unique to Democratic voters that makes them significantly less likely to vote than Republican voters if they must cast their vote via mail, which seems doubtful. (Note also that in Oregon each community has to set up a drop-off box for those who don’t want to put a stamp on the envelope; this was done out of concern that the cost of postage was an effective poll tax. I find that amusing, since driving downtown to cast my vote in the drop-box probably cost more than the stamp, but, well, that’s law and politics for you. I’d be interested to hear if WA has followed suit on that.)

            Third, and most interestingly, Oregon moved to vote-by-mail because when they relaxed their absentee ballot laws from “you must demonstrate you’re going to be out of state” to “you can have it if you want it, we don’t care why,” the increase in demand for absentee ballots was widespread, not confined to one demographic or party group. They then further relaxed it to allow people to register for permanent absentee ballot status, and the demand for that was so great and widespread that they then experimented with a vote-by-mail-only election in a state/local election in an off-year (so they didn’t, in their experiment, have to deal with the issue of whether it was legitimate or appropriate for a national election). So all along the way that policy was driven by government responsiveness to broad-based public demand, and not by any search for partisan advantage. It’s actually kind of a case-study in ideal democratic governance.

              

          • Pat,

            And vice versa, right? So it comes down to probabilities and sizes of effects, yes?

            Personally, I’m a lot more worried about mis-programmed electronic voting machines and having ballots running through the hands of lots of local level election officials than I am about vote-by-mail failures At least until there’s some evidence that the particular potential failures of vote-by-mail are actually happening.

              

          • James–yes, Washington did have drop off boxes for ballots. I used one the first time I voted in Washington so I could still have the experience of voting. After that, I just mailed in my ballot.

            I didn’t know the history of Oregon’s mail-in ballot, but it certainly makes a lot of sense. I forget the window you had to vote in Washington, but I think it was about two weeks. Plenty of time to review all the ballot initiatives (Washington, like California, had bazillions of them), mark your ballot, and get it in the mail. I bet a mail-in ballots would be popular in plenty of other states.

              

          • Michelle,

            Thanks for the info on WA. As to OR, I only know the history because I was living there at the time they shifted to vote-by-mail, and it was such an astonishingly new thing that I delved into the background a little to understand it. Turned out that from the local perspective it wasn’t so astonishingly new after all, but a really logical step-by-step development. And once they’d done it and demonstrated functionality (and cost-savings, but not–contrary to a lot of expectations–much increase in turnout), it made it a fairly safe and not too huge step for the second state to try it.

            I particularly liked it because it made it easier to work with all the ballot measures, and fit into my time schedule better than polling places did/do.

              

          • James:

            Personally, I’m a lot more worried about mis-programmed electronic voting machines and having ballots running through the hands of lots of local level election officials than I am about vote-by-mail failures

            Mis-programmed electronic voting machines are #1. Vote by mail is #2. Local level election officials are #3.

            From a security standpoint. Generally, not always.

            (#2 and #3 are reversed because local level election officials are already likely to be aligned with the way the local district is going to go anyway. Vote-by-mail introduces the possibility that large numbers of votes from a fairly partisan district can be targeted by the opposing side, because of the centralized way they are collected).

              

          • Pat,

            I disagree. Because votes are collected in one place, it would require a larger and more noticeable fraud effort, the scale itself will be more of a deterrent, the fraud would be harder to get away with, and the backlash more severe by far. On the local level the fraud is less likely to be at a high level, and perhaps even less likely to affect the electoral outcome, but is more likely to be endemic and, because of the district alignment you noted, more likely to go unchallenged. It can be an excellent way for a cabal of local elites to maintain an iron grip in a small community.

              

          • Has there been any determination of whether some number of marginally likely voters who always vote, if they vote, on election day after being prodded, offered rides, etc., do or don’t vote in mail-only jurisdictions? I’m not sure that group would skew heavily one way or the other in terms of party, but I’ve always been concerned that vote-by-mail-only would lose some segment of the voting population just by not allowing for that spontaneous last-minute decision to vote rather than stay home, or by making it complicated enough to defeat the impulse in any case. That’s just a speculative concern, but I’m a fairly committed voter, and as supportive of the trend toward expanding the times and ways for people to vote as I am, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever voted in any way other than going to the polling place on election day. Does vote-by-mail fully facilitate a person’s last-minute, day-the-vote-counting-begins desire to vote the way in-person voting does?

              

          • Michael,

            Vote by mail does allow for last minute decision to vote, assuming you didn’t throw away or misplace the ballot that was sent to you ahead of time. If your ballot s post-marked on Election Day it’s counted, or if the PO is closed you can drive to the dropbox until midnight. Since the dropbox is open after than polling places, it’s actually slightly more amenable to last minute voting (although you may run into a line at the dropbox late in the day–it’s kind of like 5 PM at the post office on tax day).

              

          • Is there a place you can go on election day (counting day, I think we should actually start calling it) to get a replacement ballot, or register in case you’ve recently moved, etc.? (I realize that same-day registration is far form the rule in the country, but as a Wisconsinite it’s kind of my baseline, and I think it should be the rule.)

              

          • Michael,

            I had to look that one up. Based on this, I’d tentatively say yes. It’s certainly possible to set the rules that way, and I’m to your way of thinking on that.

            But in looking that up I discovered I was wrong about postmark. They do not count, the ballot must be received by Election Day, either in the mail or the drop box.

              

          • Here is a semi-related question:

            A common response to extending Election Day beyond one day is that reporting of early results will impact later voters. We see this same logic applied to the media limiting their reporting of exit polls and other information until polls have closed.

            But why is this a problem? Maybe I don’t plan to vote because I don’t think my state is in play. But, based on early results, I see it is in play. So now I vote. I am a more informed voter by having learned of the early results. And the information is (theoretically) available to all. So why is this a bad thing?

              

          • Kazzy,

            That’s a worthwhile question, but a bit beyond my scope of knowledge. I’m only superficially familiar with electoral studies stuff, and that question isn’t something I’ve given any thought to even casually.

            But now I probably will, damn you.

              

          • James, if there’s one thing you learn in the security analysis business, it’s that all vulnerabilities are eventually exploited if they’re not closed first.

            You’re correct that local elections with local control are more prone to simple dirty tricks than larger elections, for the simple reason that it’s easier to get away with ’em. But the impact is typically a lot lower than a regional, state, or national election.

            Because votes are collected in one place, it would require a larger and more noticeable fraud effort, the scale itself will be more of a deterrent, the fraud would be harder to get away with, and the backlash more severe by far.

            There’s a lot of things going on in this one sentence, so I’ll tackle them one at a time.

            Vote collection methodology is wildly disparate across the U.S., because each state handles it differently (sometimes, differently based upon what type of election it is, too). There are so many different versions that it’s impossible to sum them up well in a single blog post, let alone combox entry. But all of them have weaknesses, usually (at least) at three points: voter transfers ballot to initial collection point, initial collection points transfer ballots to central collection point, and central collection point tallies votes. Most low-level voter fraud in the U.S. happens somewhere between 1 and 3, not at 3, because the actual final collection and tabulation is the most highly watched, yes.

            But (and this is an important but), there are lots of ways to inject shenanigans right at the transfer point. And while you’re correct: the scale does provide a deterrent effect, one of the gotchas here is that by nature, the scale also provides a much higher value target.

            Typically, from a public policy standpoint, we’re way less concerned if Joe Schmoe wins Dogcatcher than we are if he wins Mayor or County Judge or State Legislator or House Representative or Senator (roughly in order of importance). In the US, there really hasn’t been a credible case of real voter fraud above the county level in, like, forever. But the lower level positions are also not really much to worry about.

            Here’s where your final three objections get a monkey wrench.

            There is one thing you can do with vote-by-mail that you can’t do with any other currently available voting process (in the U.S.), you can sell votes with a receipt.

            I can’t buy your vote in a in-person private ballot election because I can’t tell for sure that you’re going to vote for who I pay you to vote for.

            In a mail-in ballot scenario, you can sign and fill out your ballot and I can give you $x and put it into an envelope and drop it in the mail. As long as the election results are minimally valuable, this isn’t really much of an issue (unless Donald Trump *really* wanted to be Dogcatcher), but in bigger elections, buying a few votes suddenly becomes a viable electioneering tactic.

            That’s number one.

            I can make that systemic, too. I can think of lots of ways of doing that, suitable for both political inclinations.

            That’s number two.

            I can have a voter registration party with a stack of mail-in ballots at my local church and having smiling people collect all the ballots… as a service, you know, we’re just encouraging people to vote! We’ll provide the stamp! We’ll even mail it for you!… and we here at the Church community know who shows up to the pro-life rally and who doesn’t, so if we presort those mailings by who shows up at the rally and who doesn’t and discard a pile of envelopes on the way to the community office to mail them, well, that’s just a necessary evil to save the children.

            I can do the same thing at a local college, and have the Sierra Club guys do the collection and ditch the votes from the kids in the Young Republican groups.

            That makes the scale of effort a lot smaller, and the payoff is enormous.

            The risk is still higher, but the ability to prove anything credibly is very high, and deniability is very, very high. Those crazy kids, they meant well. Those evangelicals, they were motivated by faith. I didn’t have anything to do with it!

            Heck, you can organize that stuff without organizing it. Meet with the right people and say the right things, and they’ll go do the work for you without being able to say it was your idea.

            Is this really that big of a deal? In the U.S., probably not. Fascinatingly, for all of the terrible, terrible, terrible voting security practices (see Ed Felten’s blog for constant reporting on this), security gets violated very, very un-often. For some godawful reason, Americans seem to still believe in the electoral process enough that they don’t monkey with it.

              

          • Patrick,

            I suspect there’s a security analysis of voting paper lurking in there that hasn’t yet been written. But a few comments.

            1) The church. That was one of the most commonly expressed fears, but there’s no evidence it’s happened. So why not? Because not all people are gullible idiots or that comfortable mixing religion with politics, particularly those who know their political beliefs are outside their church’s mainstream.

            2) Vote-selling. A) That’s a real consideration, but B) it would really just be a return to an old practice, but probably still on a smaller scale (as long as it remains illegal, it would be hard to get away with doing it on the scale necessary to tip the higher-level elections you’re more worried about), and C) personally I don’t object to selling one’s vote–I’ve even offered mine for sale, but due to lack of verifiability I can’t get any takers.

              

        • Michelle,

          Do you actually have proof that this is what Republicans are doing? Couldn’t it be that like many things, resources tend to not go as much to inner cities than it does suburbs? Minneapolis has always had pretty good wait times in years when the GOP controlled the state legislature as well as the Democrats.

            

          • Dennis,
            it depends HEAVILY on where you are. In my state (PA), the county controls the voting machines. It’s got reasonable waits about everywhere (even in inner city Philly, home of men who like to dress up and carry batons while being poll watchers ;-P)

            In Virginia, it’s a way different story.

            Not surprised at all that Minneapolis is always awesome. Minnesota Nice, and all that.

              

          • Dennis, I haven’t been able to find anything more than anecdotal evidence. In the last election, the states with the longest lines were in Florida and Ohio, two states where Republicans exerted major effort to limit early voting and take other measures generally thought to have a greater impact on minority communities.

            I’m sure a pretty good case could be made that part of the problem is the inequitable distribution of resources between cities and suburbs. Of course, there is a chicken-egg question here as well.

              

          • Voter ID laws and inadequate polling places in poorer urban areas are actually a return to the principles of the Founders, where the vote was restricted to white property owners. The real problem with the famous New Black Panther poll watcher was that he was holding the door open for voters who should be ineligible, i.e. women.

              

          • I think based on various statements like the one Mike showed above or the recent state legislator in Virginia who wanted to change how the electoral college is divided up to make the rural vote more powerful; the answer is yes.

            There were a lot of statistics out for states like Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Michigan where Democratic candidates received over 50 percent of the vote but the House delegation still skews heavily Republican.

            I think the Republicans are being as overt as possible about suppressing voters likely to be Democratic.

              

  4. Tim,

    I get that you’re a conservative, so you’re not going to like Obama’s policies. But, for the most part, I’m not seeing much to respond to. I mean, I could get into the weeds about the fact that there’s plenty of studies showing the positives of pre-school education (especially for poor students) and minimum wage increases. I could even question why it’s terrible to subsidize green energy when we’ve been subsidizing oil and natural gas for the past century.

    But, it seems your basic argument is, “Obama is putting forth standard-issue center-left policies a month after winning a historic reelection, but I don’t like it.” Especially when you praise Rubio’s remarks, which could’ve been put forth by any Republican in the past four years, and parts of which were put forth by Romney in the last election. It’d be one thing if Rubio put forth some Burkean argument. He didn’t. He basically said, “hey, spending is out of control. Except for the stuff people like. Oh, and old people, we won’t screw you over. Your grandkids on the other hand…”

    As far as the whole tax reform package, I just don’t buy it. John Boehner has had 2+ years to put forth a package that would easily pass the Senate to get rid of the loopholes. He hasn’t. Why? Because he knows his caucus of Republican’s won’t pass a bill that removes loopholes without also lowering rates. Which, to this social democrat, sounds like giving somebody a whole cheesecake as a reward after stopping them from stealing a couple of cookies.

      

    • Jesse, I wasn’t trying to offer a disinterested appraisal of the addresses. I freely admit my ideological and partisan affiliations so you can correct for my biases, but beyond that, I make an effort to give reasons for my views, or else admit that I need to further reflect on something. Making voting easier is one such issue: I’m aware this is a hot-button issue, but I haven’t researched it beyond reading or listening to media outlets. That doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions, obviously — as I said, I’m not sure what the big deal is, but that’s admittedly coming from my conservative disposition.

      Anyway, what I hoped to do with with respect to the two addresses last night is illustrate what kind of response they elicit from a conservative Republican who’s trying to be constructive while still forcefully defending his principles and trying to figure out the GOP’s most effective role going forward.

        

      • If you’re in line at the end of voting, the poll stays open until you vote. Provided you don’t get out of line.

        How much is your vote worth, sir? Four hours? Six? Now repeat with a squealing kid who wants to eat. NOW.

        Ease of voting impacts who votes.

          

      • That sounds like the words of a man who has never had his ballot challenged for no other reason than skin color, nor had to wait in line hours to vote.

        “The right to vote” is indeed no big deal to those who find it trivially easy to vote. And yet even to you it should be a no brainer — anyone qualified to vote should find doing so quick and easy with minimal hassles.

          

        • As I’ve said, I’m not opposing the president’s vague proposal to make voting more accessible. The concern I’ve put forward is that secretaries of state and attorneys general should be left out of the process of characterizing candidates and opponents. In other words, fine, let’s make the physical act of voting easier. I’ve not heard any response to the concern about the lack of intellectual engagement in the process. More engaged voting, yes. More eenie-meenie voting, no.

            

          • Your statement of “And how easy does voting have to be”? followed by a bit on voter ignorance was..

            Weird.

            It’s pretty obvious from the last several elections that there are been real, concrete problems with access to the polls. Strangely concentrated in minority districts in swing states. Ten hour lines make voting really hard.

            You deciding it’s about voter ignorance or that ‘voting is already really easy’ means either you don’t want to talk about what the President was talking about (in which case, that’s hardly an objection to what he said) or you don’t actually believe wide-spread news stories about serious issues gaining access to the voting booths in multiple states.

              

          • Secretaries of State and Attorneys General are political, and have a tendency to turning the voting process political.

            In my state, when Republicans too control of both houses and the Gov.’s office, one of the first things they did was adopt model ALEC legislation that repealed same-day voter registration. The citizens were outraged. Many, including me, took to the streets collecting signatures to force a referendum on it, which passed by a landslide.

            But in the mean time, the Secretary of State and Attorney General, to gain some cover for irritating the Citizens, spent several hundred thousand dollars investigating voter fraud. They found a couple college students who were registered both in their home towns and their college towns (not fraud, but an error on the part of the people who manage voting roles in the two communities involved,) and they found there were several college students who were registered to vote here but had cars registered in other states. We’re talking less then hundred here.

            So there’s voter fraud for you.

            There is a lot of evidence of the other kind of voter fraud nationally. Lack of machines. Ballots designed to confuse. ID requirements (despite any evidence of voter fraud). Voter role purges. Remember, in 2000, Katherine Harris oversaw the purge of more the voter rolls of anyone who’s name/address was at all similar to a list of felons from several neighboring states. Rough computer matches. I’ve read a variety of estimates, there’s no clear count, but it’s guessed about 20,000 people who wanted to vote couldn’t. Of course, these are mostly poor minorities. Certainly enough to flipped the difference between Gore and Bush had they been allowed to vote (remember, many thousands turned away had the right to vote.)

            So if you want to talk about voter fraud, remember this: There is ample circumstantial evidence that Republicans have a goal of keeping minority voters away from the polls. The laws they’ve promoted, the ways they’ve conducted elections, they attempts they’ve made to keep votes from being counted are well documented.

            As to the more engaged, less eenie-meenie, what do you think. A test? There was one in the ’08 cycle, I think it was conducted by PEW; they found that people who watched 1/2 hour of a comedy show were more politically informed then people who watched several hours of Fox.

              

          • OK, I hesitate to do this, because I really do like and respect Tim, but I think this needs to be said.

            If Tim hasn’t been paying much attention to the issue of voting access, GOP efforts to limit access in multiple states, and an on-going but demonstrably false series of claims about voter fraud, that’s fair enough, although I would encourage him to take a serious look at it.

            But to not know about this issue that’s been so prominent on a national level of late while simultaneously worrying about uninformed voters? I find that really notable, and not in an admirable way. Maybe it calls for some further reflection on one’s standard for calling others uninformed.

              

          • James, this criticism is not sound to the extent it suggests I’m inexcusably ignorant on the voter access issue, and thus that my concern about uninformed voting is “notable, and not in an admirable way.” I mean, I can roughly see your point (whether or not I’d agree) if the premise were true, but I never said I did “not know about this issue that’s been so prominent on a national level of late.” What I said was “I’m aware this is a hot-button issue, but I haven’t researched it beyond reading or listening to media outlets.” Far from being ignorant the debate exists, that it’s hotly contested, and what the basic arguments are on both sides, I’m cognizant that the controversial nature of this issue makes it likely that many of the more accessible sources of information are going to lead to false conclusions and misunderstandings, feed confirmation bias, trigger emotional responses, etc. Thus, rather than join this particular fray, I’ve put it on the shelf in my own mind until I can devote some time to more serious and careful analyses of it. I’ve got a book or two on my book list, but I can’t imagine it makes me derelict that I haven’t read them yet, or that expressing concerns about a related though separate and independent issue is “notable, and not in an admirable way.” Besides, whether I’m sufficiently informed on the voter access issue has no nexus to the issue of uninformed or misinformed voting.

              

          • Except that Obama wasn’t talking about “uninformed voters” so your entire statement in your post is, well, projection.

            Obama was talking about outright moves designed to discourage voters from voting. You breezily said you knew nothing about that, but voting was too easy you’re not all sure about ignorant people voting.

            In short, part of your criticism was based on something Obama didn’t say, didn’t mean, wasn’t dog-whistling and you entirely invented. And made it a point of criticism aimed at Obama.

              

          • Morat, many of your recent comments have badly mischaracterized my statements and/or engaged in attempts at psychoanalysis of me and my motives. Your most recent does the former. In either event, I don’t care to engage—blogging takes enough time and energy to write things the first time; I don’t have enough left over to discuss my relationship with my mother or unsay things I never said.

              

          • Tim, I’m not trying to mischaracterize you. That’s why I commented and went back and forth with you.

            I simply don’t see any connection between Obama’s comments on voting and your seque into uninformed voters. It wasn’t what Obama was talking about, so as a criticism of the SOTU it was entirely off-point.

            But you weren’t treating it as an aside in the “Although his statement does make me thing about another voting issue” — you treated it as if it was somehow part and parcel with Obama’s statement.

            I simply cannot grasp the link between his words and your criticism. You are talking about entirely different things.

              

          • Besides, whether I’m sufficiently informed on the voter access issue has no nexus to the issue of uninformed or misinformed voting.

            I can only understand that in the context of you being in a very heavily Democratic state, where a GOP majority is at present a pipe dream. So maybe it’s not a relevant issue in CA.

            But, seriously, it’s not a very hard issue to figure out. Your party deserves all the condemnation it’s getting and more, both because it’s making efforts to effectively, (de facto, not de jure) disenfranchise voters, and because there’s a persistent set of falsehoods being perpetrated by your party about the extent of voter fraud in this country (c.f., Theresa, below, repeating the false claims about ACORN).

            I say this as a non-Democrat, one who would like your part to get its damned act together to provide an intelligent and meaningful opposition before it finds itself in permanent minority status that effectively enables the Democrats to run amok.

              

          • Jeez, Jesse, now I’m going to have nightmares tonight.

            While I don’t fear that as much as I fear Ted Nugent representing the moderate wing of the GOP, I do fear it very very much. Not my worst of all possible worlds, but a horrible, terrible, very bad, no good one. 😉

              

          • I find it interesting that you think too many “uninformed voters” are going to vote or favor the side that you happen to oppose. Rather, I find this really telling.

            A test of “voter ignorance” sounds a lot like the various literacy tests that the South used to keep most blacks disenfranchised during the Jim Crow era. What makes a voter not ignorant? Do they all need to be constantly reading white papers and understand economics on a grad school levels?

              

          • James,

            I remember an older Warner Brothers cartoon called Democrats Amok. We kept on trying to erase republican virtue and turn everyone into free-love socialists and lazy bums.

            No wait, that was Duck Amok and Daffy Duck kept on getting erased.

              

          • Here’s what I understand: In states that do not require ID to vote, anyone can walk into a polling place and state a name. If that name happens to be on the rolls, that person gets a ballot and can vote. When rolls include names of deceased voters, or nonexistent voters in the event officials do not catch false registrations such as those submitted by ACORN, those names can be stated by anyone to get a voting ballot.

            Right so far?

            Then what I understand is the right believes this appears to make it very easy to commit voter fraud, so we should require people to show photo ID to prevent such fraud. The left says hold on there, show me examples of anyone committing fraud before we make it harder for people to vote, and you can’t show me more than a handful of examples, can you? To which the right apparently says, there are some, and the nature of the fraud we’re talking about makes it hard to ferret out. To which the left says, pshaw, there’s no fraud, so why require a photo ID unless you’re just trying to make it harder for certain demographics to vote. To which some on the right say, what is so burdensome about showing a photo ID? To which the left says… I’m not sure exactly. It does seem like a minimal burden, but even if so, it’s a burden nonetheless, and voting is too important to subject to any burden that’s not absolutely necessary, bringing us back to “show me the massive instances of fraud.”

            Is that roughly accurate picture of the debate?

            I bought Richard Hasen’s book The Voting Wars last night. http://www.amazon.com/Voting-Wars-Florida-Election-Meltdown/dp/0300182031/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1360862431&sr=1-1&keywords=voter+wars. ($16.50 for a 250-page ebook. Sheesh.) I’m part way into chapter one. I’ll reserve further comment on the issue at least until I finish it.

              

          • Tim,
            Wrong wrong and wrong.
            1) To get a ballot, your signature must “match” with the current signature on file. They aren’t terribly stringent on this, but …
            2) To get a FIRST ballot, you must provide proof of residence (utility bill, something like that).
            3) The left and the right say, “You want us to go to the DMV????” Many, many, many folks don’t have an ID that is gov’t issued. (Particularly the elderly and college students, but many innercity folks don’t.) And take the people working three jobs (or supporting kids, to whom getting the whole posse to the DMV is an undue burden, particularly when it involves a lengthy drive).

              

          • No. 🙂 That’s the simple answer.

            The more complex one: First, as noted — you must have a name match, which means the name must be registered. Second, without your voter registeration card, you must provide some proof of address — this is universal, as far as I am aware.

            Most people present a driver’s license, but things like bills and the like are also allowed. It’s very difficult to walk into a small precinct, correctly guess the name of someone who is registered but not going to vote, and then present their electric bill.

            Doing so in a manner that will change an election? Ridiculous. Even the famous examples of election rigging all had one thing in common: Either the machines or the count were rigged. (Even the famous ‘voting dead’ didn’t involve live people showing up pretending to be dead ones. It was so that the tallies wouldn’t show more people voted than were registered. That was rigged by the folks running the election).

            And even then, Tim, you’re making a stretch to think Obama was specifically talking photo ID’s after an election that saw rapid changes to voting windows and multi-hour long lines in predominanetly black districts.

              

  5. Rubio blamed the 2008 crisis on taxation. It was a lie he didn’t have to tell.

    Pobre Marquito Rubio is trying so hard to be a nice guy. And still failing so big. Had he cut out those first few nasty partisan attacks from his response and kept the rest of his spiel, things would have gone better with him. The GOP is perfectly capable of reasonable responses, areas where the GOP could find common ground and provide useful input, that much is so obvious: the issues before us are clear enough. It’s mostly a question of how these things are done. There’s a GOP way and a Democratic way — so what, the country asks — knowing these things, do something already.

    Obama threw out a big rope for the GOP, a big concession to reality: health care costs are the elephant in the room. So why can’t the GOP say “Yeah, thanks for acknowledging the obvious, here’s an issue where we can work with you and we’ve got some thoughts on how you could get this through a GOP-controlled House.”, nu?

    Rand Paul is such an unappealing snot: viscous on issues, crusty in demeanour. Would that someone would pull that booger from the body politic and flick him downwind. He’s an embarrassment to the GOP. Of him I shall say nothing at all.

      

    • Rubio speech will be remembered for the water-grab and his nervous demeanor as opposed to the standard Republican talking points he spouted. A disappointing performance from the latest Republican superstar.

        

      • It was not his best performance, and in that sense might be “disappointing,” but that’s grading him on a Rubio-curve, which is already in the 99th percentile of skill. He’s “dangerous” for Democrats:

        “Rubio is dangerous for Democrats,” Jones said curtly as the chuckles from the CNN panel faded. “I’m so glad that we’re talking about him and we’re joking about him, because right when he reached for that water bottle he was reaching an emotional part of that speech which he stepped on.”

        “The last 90 seconds of that speech shows you the danger he poses for Democrats,” Jones continued. “He is to the heart what Paul Ryan is to the head.”

        “This man can connect emotionally. Democrats dodged a bullet. We have not heard the last from Marco Rubio,” Jones added. He said that the junior senator from Florida possesses an “extreme record,” but his political skill should be taken seriously by Democrats.

        http://www.mediaite.com/tv/van-jones-warns-dems-about-dangerous-marco-rubio-he-is-to-the-heart-what-paul-ryan-is-to-the-head/

          

        • I think the jury is still out about how dangerous Rubio will be. The same kind of memes were being floated about Bobby Jindal a few years ago. Not hearing so much about him now. Time will tell.

            

        • It doesn’t matter what people say. What matters is what people hear. Now I speak Spanish about as well as I speak English. If there were any Mexicans or Central Americans tuned in to see Marquito, they would know he is Not One Of Them. He’s just another Right Wing Miami Cuban.

          And he sounds like a Cuban. Drops all the final s consonants. Mucha’ gracia’.

          The Republicans already have the Cuban vote. Had it for years.

          Marco Rubio is a dull knife. The most dangerous knife is a dull knife: it only cuts the guy trying to cut anything with it. It would be silly of me to say No to your Yes, that sort of rhetoric is just dumb and you’re a decent enough guy, so I won’t go there. But you Republicans need to understand how Rubio comes across to those Hispanics you’re trying to reach. Marco Rubio’s grandfather was an illegal alien who hid in the USA for four years — when he was finally naturalised, he didn’t have to go through all this crap about paying fines and back taxes and suchlike. When his abuelo was scheduled for deportation, the courts showed some mercy.

          Marco Rubio didn’t make a peep about immigration reform until this year. He was against the DREAM Act as were all the other Republicans. So you’ll forgive me if I think Marquito es un mentiroso. The truth is not in that boy.

          The Mexicans deeply resent the way the USA cared about the Cubans, most of whom were part of the vile Bautista regime when they arrived here, expelled from their own country. Nobody gives a damn about the Mexicans.

          Until the GOP can put forward someone who can say Buenos dias with terminal consonants, that is to say someone who represents the vast majority of undocumented workers. The GOP thinks everyone with a brown skin who speaks Spanish will be wowed by Marquito. They could not be more wrong.

            

  6. I understood “They deserve vote.” as “Don’t filibuster this one too.” Which is not very different from “Every nominee deserves an up-or-down vote,” which Republicans used to say back when they were in the majority.

      

    • I think the “deserve a vote” line is pertinant, especially considering the GOP’s absolutely astonishing use of the filibuster since Obama was elected. I mean for fish’s sake Republican are requiring 60 votes for everything; they’ve been doing so since January 2009.

      Now it’s not like prior to then filibusters were infrequent but since 2009 they’ve become universal.

        

      • On the other hand, there have been some instances of major legislation being rushed through Congress without fully examining the effects, passing the bills so we can find out what is in them, etc. Is the filibuster overused? It’s certainly a valid question. But in its defense, it does preserve the intended deliberative nature of the Senate. And for that reason, I’d be wary of watering it down too much.

          

        • I’m not even advocating that the filibuster itself should be done away with Tim. But surely you can agree that the filibuster’s near universal application since 2009 is both unprecedented and also the exact kind of abuse that could eventually lead to creating a concrete movement for eliminating it? The GOP talked about doing just that when its use was increased during the aughts by the Dem minority. What would they have done if it had been used then by the Dem’s the way the GOP is using it now?

            

          • I’ll advocate that the filibuster should be taken out back and shot.

            Totally.

            The 2/3rds majority requirement is almost universally a barrier to effective governance. Everybody focuses on “you now need 67% supporting to get bad legislation through!” instead of the attendant corollary, “now it only takes 34% to stop good legislation from going through!”

            Granted, there’s cases of bad legislation that would have been stopped if the requirement was 67% instead of 51%. There are many, many more cases of good legislation that were held up by 34%.

            Also: it completely prevents accountability to the public. When nobody expects anything to get done for a long time, they start expecting nothing to get done, and the reasons for it fit neatly into your ideological framework.

            When people expect stuff to get done, you need to do stuff, and when it fails you can be held accountable for it at the ballot box.

            I’ve said it before: the best thing to increase real membership in the GOP in the state of California would be a removal of Prop 13’s 2/3rds revenue requirement. Because then the people of California, who vote for people who want to increase spending, would actually see their taxes go up, and they would have to decide whether or not to continue to support that spending or not. A bunch of them would abandon the Democratic party and join the GOP.

            As it is, we have cake, and we don’t have to pay for it. And when we don’t have cake, it’s because of those meanies over there. And when we run out of money, it’s because of those meanies over there.

            The voting public doesn’t have to actually make decisions with real consequences that are linked to those decisions. This is a terrible idea, and leads to… an enormous over-reliance on direct democracy.

              

          • Patrick I agree with you more than not but I was trying to take a somewhat conservative posture towards the filibuster for the sake of arguement. If you loathe the filibuster then yes, what the GOP is doing with it is probably accelerating the day it’s going to be done away with. The GOP made noises about ending it in the aughts, Reid actually took a toothless swipe at it this year, if it continues to be used as it is sooner or later someone’s going to end it.

              

          • And the GOP minority in the Senate is now filibustering the Hagel nomination for SecDef. Though they’re embarrassed enough about it to insist it’s not really a filibuster.

              

        • And yes, major legislation was pushed through Congress in a rather slapdash fasion, at least partially due to the constraints imposed by the filibuster. I don’t think either party covered themselves in glory with that episode nor was it much of an example of the filibuster’s virtues.

            

        • On the other hand, there have been some instances of major legislation being rushed through Congress without fully examining the effects, passing the bills so we can find out what is in them, etc

          Like, for instance, the Patriot Act?

            

  7. So, net net: Things will proceed along the same path as they have been, minor changes made at the margins.

    Vote for us and we’ll give you “money”.

    I’m glad I was playing Skyrim while this was going on.

      

  8. I was puzzled at the president’s plea to make more funds available so that more people could buy houses. I’m not an economist, but isn’t that how the last housing bubble got started?

    No. The last housing bubble got started when lenders failed to do due diligence on borrowers because of the presumption that housing prices would never go down, and accelerated with the demand for ever more mortgages to place bets upon — bets which were only based on the outcomes of those mortgages, not actually tied to them in any way. Mortgages were given to people who could not possibly qualify for them under the assumption that the bank could always get its money back by foreclosing. Now that those lenders know otherwise, they’re reacting in the opposite way, and refusing to lend or refinance loans for people who could pay them, people who could also more afford to participate in the economy if they refinanced at lower interest rates.

      

  9. Thanks for the speech overview and your thoughts on it Tim. I’m going through so much right now that I decided it best for my health not to listen to the President’s speech. But I will probably look online soon for the transcript.

    Actually things like the Community Reinvestment Act and its expansion under Bill Clinton caused the bubble with banks were threatened and coerced to give out government loans by government officials and the likes of Acorn. Yes, there were some predatory lenders but for the most part it was the fact that the government demanded to give the poor the opportunity to buy houses even if the people didn’t have the money to pay their mortgages. This was based on the same type of system as low rent government housing. The fact that the housing prices went down made the disaster worse but wasn’t the underlying cause of the housing bubble. It was the idea of housing fairness or buyers fairness without thinking about the financial consequences that got us into the housing crisis.

      

    • Well, quite frankly I’m certain that you and the rest of the folks on this blog (with the notable exception of Blaise), shouldn’t own houses.
      Not that you guys do, of course (except maybe roger).

        

      • People shouldn’t own houses? Okay, whatever if that’s the way you feel that’s okay. Of course you believe government should distribute houses fairly just like a good person who follows a big government philosophy. Sarcasm all the way from me. Fiscal responsibility, moderation filled with good old common sense, moderate responses and less government interference doesn’t seem to be in a prog’s genes. Let’s just hand out houses like candy even though people are unable to afford them. Sarcasm. That’s the progressive way. Never thinking about the consequences all in the name of equality and fairness. So you believe people who can’t afford to pay for their mortgages deserve to own houses? Or should we help people with upward mobility in getting better jobs via better training or better/additional education which would enable these people to earn better pay and own a house?

          

        • I’m all for better training and education. Perhaps most people might qualify for a course on fiscal responsibility. Only 33% of Americans have $1000 in their bank accounts, for goodness sakes!

          And yes, yall ought to learn that decisions have consequences, and if you ALL fish up the entire american economy, we’re going to take your ability to make lifealtering decisions away.

          American consumer debt was nearly 100% of GDP — much, much higher than Government debt. But everybody talks about bleeding the government dry. How about we bleed some consumers? (note: not talking about actual bloodletting. exaggeration for humorous effect only).

          p.s. Give people houses? Please! Rent an apartment like the next shmuck!

          [also, loving the sarcasm. is an effective form of communication, and you’re quite good at it.]

            

    • This is nonsense that has been debunked time and again, but here’s a pretty good summary of the reasons why the CRA was not the cause of the housing bust:

      http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/looking-at-the-causes-of-the-financial-crisis/

      If you want to blame the government for the crash, then the place to look is to the Fed and Alan Greenspan who, by keeping interest rates artificially low, did more than any other government entity to inflate the bubble. Likewise, look to irresponsible lending agencies such as Countrywide and the other huge mortgage brokers who pushed subprime mortgages on people. And finally, look to all those banks and financial institutions who sucked up MBSes and leveraged themselves 30 times over.

        

      • No one can claim any one thing was “the cause” of the housing bust because there were many factors. Hard to deny the “everyone deserves to own a home” policies—of both D and R administrations—was not a significant factor. Would the bust have been prevented without it? I don’t think it’s possible to say, but it’s a debatable point. Even without being an economist or having done more than just a little reading on the subject, however, I’m pretty comfortable saying that these policies made the housing crisis more than a little bit worse.

          

        • I think if you want to claim a 1970s piece of legislation caused a market collapse in 2006, you have a very hard row to hoe just in general.

          Vast skepticism to a claim like that should be the default.

            

          • hey morat some in the GOP still claim the Clinton boom was because of Reagan’s tax cuts so you have to remember that cause and effect have a very long timeline. heck in 20 years we will be praising Obamacare for saving healthcare.

              

    • Actually things like the Community Reinvestment Act and its expansion under Bill Clinton caused the bubble with banks were threatened and coerced to give out government loans by government officials and the likes of Acorn. Yes, there were some predatory lenders but for the most part it was the fact that the government demanded to give the poor the opportunity to buy houses even if the people didn’t have the money to pay their mortgages. This was based on the same type of system as low rent government housing. The fact that the housing prices went down made the disaster worse but wasn’t the underlying cause of the housing bubble. It was the idea of housing fairness or buyers fairness without thinking about the financial consequences that got us into the housing crisis.

      This is so funny. Every talking point ever dreamed up to deflect responsibility for the synthetic derivative bubble back onto people who were basically fodder for a ponzi scheme.

      The government never demanded lenders lend to people who couldn’t pay; they demanded lenders lend to people who qualified but were being denied; people who qualified for FHA loans, etc., but were being denied, often because of their race or the ethnic makeup of the neighborhood they wanted to purchase a home in. The government didn’t make lenders skip due diligence in underwriting; the government didn’t make lenders skip doing proper paperwork in foreclosures.

      And Acorn? Are conservatives still flogging that (sadly) dead horse? I believe, in it’s death, the humble, little Acorn might just grow into a giant tree.

        

    • Teresa, I was personally involved in rewiring Citigroup’s loan rules. I can tell you none of that is true. Where, previously, loans had been rejected, they were sent into a pricing tree, increasing the down and interest varying with just how bad those loan applications were.

      You have been fed a load of hooey. Say what you want to about CRA: the big problem was not government action or inaction. The problem was these great bundles of mortgages being rated AAA when everyone knew it wasn’t true.

        

    • Systemic collapses are usually caused by a number of different contributory factors.

      The housing crisis has enough contributory factors from a wide variety of sources (failures of government, failures of the private sector, failures of individuals) that everybody’s political inclination has a bogeyman to point at that’s totally all the other inclination’s fault.

      The only political inclination that’s free from the stain of the housing crisis is socialism, because we don’t have any here in the U.S.

      Free marketeers, liberals, and conservatives all would do better to realize that their favored policies all contributed to the problem. Then maybe we could avoid it again in the near future.

        

      • Free marketeers, liberals, and conservatives all would do better to realize that their favored policies all contributed to the problem.

        Now that would make a good post — what were the policies of each of the ideologies that contributed? What policies did each want that might have constrained?

        Pretty please.

          

      • “Systemic collapses are usually caused by a number of different contributory factors.”

        I agree.

        “Who caused the disastrous housing bubble in the U.S.? This question has been asked countless times over the past few years. The right generally blames government-sponsored entities Fannie and Freddie while the left generally blames Wall Street. They’re both right.

        In fact, there were a number of factors leading to the housing bubble, and those listed above are just two. You could add unscrupulous mortgage brokers, clueless borrowers, etc.”

        This article has a pretty good simple explanation – http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2010/06/did-fannie-and-freddie-cause-the-housing-bubble/57664/

        If I implied that the Community Reinvestment Act was the only culprit in the housing bubble I didn’t mean to give off that implication. The CRA was one of many entities which play a big part in causing the financial bubble. I went and back investigated back in history and traced the main culprit to the GSE’s. The GSE’s would fail time after time and both GOP and Democrat administrations would continue to save the GSE’s by bailing them out.

          

        • False registration is actually a lot different from voter fraud. Big difference. And to repeat what has already been said on this thread, there is almost no evidence of voter fraud. There is no evidence of any that large scale fraud that would tip an election nor does that even pass a common sense test for how its possible. This has been investigated Teresa and the claims found wanting.

            

        • We’ve long known, and liberals have long acknowledged, that there were fraudulent voter registrations done, particularly by workers who were paid by the registration. This was a problem for Republicans in Florida the past election, too. It happens.

          But, and this is vital: those faulty registrations don’t end up with fraudulent votes, because there’s nobody there to actually vote.

            

          • Another point: ACORN was required, by law, to turn in those forms. (They did, as I understand, helpful bundle the ones they believed to be fraudulent seperately for investigation).

            I’m sure Theresa can, if she thinks for a second, understand why it is against the law in most states to toss away filled in voter registration forms, even if they’re filled out for Mickey Mouse.

              

  10. Full Disclosure: I couldn’t watch last night because of a schedule conflict, and haven’t had time to read the transcripts yet.

    He pleaded with lawmakers to make “basic decisions” about the budget, but the basics are precisely where we’ve been stuck

    Heh, exactly. But with both sides trying to avoid the real basics, the fundamentals, of what it takes to balance a budget.

    I was surprised early on when the president said that cutting Medicare and Social Security would be even worse than cutting education, that these entitlements for the elderly are more important than educating our youth. The remark earned a standing ovation from his party.

    Of course they’re more important. Old folks vote, kids don’t.

    it was the president’s own chief of staff four years ago who uttered the immortal line about never letting a good crisis go to waste.)

    Ah, he took a lot of heat for saying what everybody already knew. His crime was not in thinking or acting that way, but in blowing the pretense that politicians don’t act that way.

    I don’t know what the president has in mind when he says he wants to make voting “easier.”

    Are you really? I’m going to be so blunt as to suggest that coming from a Republican these days, that’s a bit self-serving.

    Several references to new investments, like 3D printing. I’m in favor of necessary infrastructure investments: …roads, water, waste disposal,… But government-as-venture capitalist in things like 3D printing and high speed rail

    Agreed. It’s just plain foolish, because unlike with venture capitalists the calculation won’t be based on a meaningful calculation of expected return, but on political considerations. That said, Rubio’s call for not subsidizing green energy, but continued subsidizing of fossil fuels (the one bit I heard on the radio this morning) is just so wearisomely predictable and self-rebutting. Is there any one in either party who who manages to not be pro-corporate (without running to the other end and being anti-market)?

      

        • NASA is a government agency, which is different from subsidizing private industries, though obviously their work has an impact on the private sector.

          There certainly is room for a conversation about the government agencies/entities that do exist and whether they should exist. But I think that is a slightly different conversation than subsidies to private industries, in part because it is much easier to create subsidies than it is to create agencies, meaning there is greater possibility for chicanery.

            

          • I’m mostly in this camp.

            I think most Democrats are in this camp, practically speaking, too. They sure don’t sell that message in their speeches, though.

            I listened to Obama’s speech with my conservative ear turned all the way up, and Rubio’s speech with my liberal ear all the way up, and I heard what I expected to hear. Then I watched it again with Kitty and did it the other way around, and I heard what I expected to hear.

            That tells me that these things are designed to communicate to people who are expecting to hear things they want you to say, and badly designed to communicate to people who are expecting to hear things that they don’t want you to say.

            Which tells me that speechwriting still sucks.

              

          • The issue, I think, is deciding what areas government has the necessary compelling interest in to justify forming an entity. A legitimate criticism of Democrats, or some Democrats at least, is that they have too low a threshold for what constitutes “necessary compelling interest”.

              

          • I think I’m in favor of NASA, too. Kazzy’s reasons might work. Might also have something to do with time horizons of the investments — private R&D is focused on turning profits in 10-20 years or so, which leaves something wanting. I’m also not as anti-subsidies as Kazzy, even if I often lean in that direction.

              

          • The reason I’m at least spouting off as being SO anti-subsidy is because I wonder about where and when we draw the line. My more nuanced position is that there probably exist legitimate areas/ways to subsidize, but I think there should be a significant burden of evidence that both parties (the government and the industry/sector/business seeking subsidies) should need to put forth before heading down that road.

            Generally speaking, including when I argued that we should just let everyone and anyone have nukes, I’m really pushing for folks to make more principled arguments about why we should hold the positions we hold. It is one thing to say that investments in green technology have a high ROI and make a demonstrable impact on pollution levels and improve the lives of people both now and in the future; it is quite another to say, “But it’s so green… WHY DO YOU HATE THE ENVIRONMENT?!?!”

              

          • Tim Kowal, secret liberal. 😉

            Conservatives were the first “progressives,” after all. We couldn’t hate liberals as much as we do if we didn’t actually have so much in common. 😉

              

          • The same reason libertarians hate Marxists?

            “We hated rent-seeking corporations before you did!”

            “No, we hated them firstest and worstest!”

              

      • I’m willing to subsidize certain people, but not economic sectors. I.e., I don’t believe in subsidizing the energy sector, but I’m fine with a little subsidization for poor people to keep the heat turned on in the winter.

          

      • That and the fact that there are more politicians in the Great Lakes states than the Southwestern states, and they unanimously stand shoulder-to-shoulder and say “You’ll get our water when you pry it from our cold dead hands.”

          

          • “Their”? You’re in a Great Lake state, too, my friend. It’s “our” plan, yes?

            Or at least mine, having been in Phoenix and not seeing any reason for it to have so damn many people.

              

          • Are any PA legislators in on it? If so, then “our”, sure!
            PA is 70% East Coast, anyhow… (I somehow think new york is less east coast. more great lakes traffic, i think…).

            It’s sure as heck a stupid idea to run water to Arizona.

            How many people do you think really buy houses with an eye towards their geopolitical situation in 20 years? ;-P

              

          • Michigan’s almost always in the forefront on Great Lakes issues, because we are more heavily affected by them than any other state. PA probably lags in attention because you have such little Great Lakes shoreline. But PA is a member state of the Great Lakes Commission. One of the current big issues is historically low water levels, which would be exacerbated by a pipeline. I’m sure state reps from Erie would be screaming bloody murder if there was a serious move for a pipeline right now.

              

      • This was one of those big moments of juicy meat for the left that led me to think that Obama has gained too much confidence from the election.

          

          • Possibly. But he made a lot of proposals last night, which gives the GOP some cover: “He told us to work on immigration, gun control, fixing the budget, saving entitlements without big cuts or adding “a single dime” to the deficit, expanding home ownership, and more — give us a break if we didn’t make it to this particular thing.”

              

          • Tim,
            I’d give the GOP a ton of credit if they actually sat down and came up with a few plans, and passed a few bills. [also, I dig “stuck in committee” as “eh, maybe next term”. Note: stuck in committee does require having an actual law stuck together, even if half of it’s done with paste] if people are serious, i’m inclined to give them credit.

              

          • Oh yes, I meant the minimum wage specifically. The risen Christ and Zombie Regan together couldn’t get the GOP in congress to hike the minimum wage (and full disclosure I’m not convinced that’s a bad thing).

              

        • I figured it was putting a new negotiating point on the table. Want to cut entitlements? Then make sure full-time work at minimum wage puts someone above the poverty line, or recognize that you’ve got to essentially subsidize the employee to keep the employer in business. It has brings up lots of nuance of job creation, and (just maybe) opens Republicans up to major fail no matter which way they turn.

          I thought it was pretty brilliant, in a seeing-around-corners sort of way.

            

        • I dunno. He stole that line from Mitt Romney and said so. If someone’s making minimum wage and qualifies for food stamps and isn’t paying taxes anyway, (except for all those regressive taxes on food, gas and the like) — doesn’t it make sense to at least recognise we’re subsidising these cheapskates who won’t even pay minimum wage?

            

          • The issue I see in a minimum wage increase isn’t the one of present wage or temp/part time employment, but one of upward mobility.
            Acquiring working capital means being able to save beyond the necessity of spending.
            Higher wages at the lowest level would enable people in those entry-level/unskilled positions to acquire working capital at a quicker pace.

              

          • Certainly they do– for a car, to enroll in a school, to move into a better neighborhood.
            I’ve been in that very same situation myself, and these were the things that I saved for (and I hid the money in an empty Skoal can (not mine; reclaimed); I figured if someone broke into my apartment, they wouldn’t be there for the Skoal).
            If $20 is all you have left at the end of the week, then $20 is what it will be that is put aside.
            For a lot of people, it’s the tax return that they’re waiting for to do these things.
            Some simply cannot afford the luxury of waiting.

              

          • Oh, okay. If that’s what you mean by working capital. My definition of working capital is an investment paying dividends, earning interest, that sort of thing. Money making money — working, if you will.

              

          • The fact that it’s “up for debate” means any effect is gonna be darn small in terms of impact on unemployment. Otherwise it’d be darn obvious between states with different MW’s, right?

            Since whatever impact is so small it’s hard to tell, objecting to MW hikes that don’t break the top state MW aren’t really something you can object to on unemployment grounds.

              

          • No, we have quite a bit of information. All the information says it’s small, so small as to be basically statistically invisible — you can’t tell if it helps or hurts.

            Now, in the future, we might get new information that says it might be bad. But we make laws and decisions based on what we know now.

            And based on what we know now — and this is a field with a good amount of scholarship — bumping the minimum wage up to 9/hr wouldn’t have a significant impact on employment.

            Any study or prediction can be critizied or “might change with more information”. But sooner or later you make choices. And saying “We can’t do this because it’ll bump up unemployment” is saying “I oppose for reasons that are unsupported entirely”.

            You can’t claim “unemployment levels will rise” as a reason to oppose it. And fairly enough, you can’t claim unemployment levels will fall as a reason to support it.

            Which is, thankfully enough, not a reason used by the President.

              

          • You can’t claim “unemployment levels will rise” as a reason to oppose it. And fairly enough, you can’t claim unemployment levels will fall as a reason to support it.

            Well, yes. That’s correct.

            Or rather, you can’t reasonably make the case that there is sufficient data to make a prediction either way.

            All the information says it’s small, so small as to be basically statistically invisible — you can’t tell if it helps or hurts.

            Not precisely. All the information says that there’s no reason to suspect that there is a strong link between minimum wage levels and unemployment, so it’s unlikely that there will be much of a systemic change, and if there *is* a systemic change, it is likely that it will be small.

            And saying “We can’t do this because it’ll bump up unemployment” is saying “I oppose for reasons that are unsupported entirely”.

            Well, not entirely. There are still holes in the available data. The studies that Arpit Gupta is talking about at that link are all state-level studies. The federal minimum wage has a different set of linked variables.

            However, there are only two mechanisms I can think of that would substantively affect unemployment in the event of a minimum wage hike; substitute local services and outsourcing.

            In the particular case of minimum wage jobs, neither of those seem like likely candidates to cause a problem. Anything that’s minimum wageable and outsourceable has probably already been outsourced, and substitute local services – while they may cause a decrease in overall minimum wage jobs – won’t necessarily significantly limit opportunity.

            In any event, people who rely on minimum wage jobs to get off the welfare rolls may be affect, as Arpit Gupta mentions in this paragraph:

            Overall Welfare. One study has found that raising the minimum wage to $9.80 would predominately affect wealthier families—only 24% of families where one worker would be affected by a minimum wage hike earn less than $20,000 total. Minimum wage earners are frequently low-skilled or young, but often live in families with higher overall incomes. That makes minimum wage hikes a relatively coarse tool to improve the incomes of the poor. At the same time, to the extent that minimum wage hikes lower opportunities among the lowest skilled, they may remove an entire avenue for entering the work force.

            But I don’t know that this is terribly likely, and in any event can be addressed through other means, as well.

            After all, if minimum wage hikes are at best a coarse tool for helping the poor, that also means that changing them is very unlikely to have much of an effect on the poor that’s negative, as well.

            I don’t think that minimum wage does much of anything to help the poor, really, but I don’t think that raising it or lowering it is much of anything other than a cosmetic change.

            This makes it a great candidate for throwing arguments back and forth and accusing the other side of bad faith and all that, but it makes it probably a rather unimportant tool for public policy.

              

          • I suspect that, in reality, what’s gonna happen is the Democrats are all for raising it as an attempt to help the working poor, and the Republicans will be against it because [inflation, unemployment — pick one].

            Which doesn’t lead to a fruitful argument, although I’m a bit biased towards the Democrats side entirely because available research doesn’t support the GOP side. It’s not that they’re wrong, it’s just that the weight of evidence says that’re unlikely to be correct in any substantive way.

              

          • Without a serious attempt to meaningfully link a minimum wage law to welfare processes, any change in the minimum wage law is very possibly just political team signalling.

            Although this is one of those times where the team signaling part gets in the way of the team principle part.

            There’s basically two ways to cut down on endemic poverty: a welfare system or a basement on labor price. We use both, but we don’t really use them together sensibly. If we raise the minimum wage but it’s not high enough to exit you from the welfare rolls, all we’ve done is transfer some of the social burden of providing assistance from the government to the individual employer; the net gain for the low-wage employee is zero. For the amount that his or her wage increases, the welfare benefit goes down.

            Now, the stuff I read on this is all from the early 90s, so I have no idea if this is still the case, but the point is still made: tying the minimum wage to inflation is probably less important than tying it to whatever benchmarks we use for welfare, and coupling the two.

            Now, from a private-actor over government-actor standpoint, it makes more *sense* to use a minimum wage setup than a welfare setup, so I’ve never understood how “privatize it” people don’t prefer minimum wage to welfare…

              

          • Pat,

            Could you expand on this last comment? (Maybe in a post?) I definitely agree that the safety net and a minimum wage should ideally go together. But I’m not sure that they currently work at what you think are cross purposes in the way you describe. I.e. I’m not sure what the welfare policies that we currently have are that lead to the interaction you think is undesirable are, nor am I sure I agree that that interaction is all that undesirable. I’d like to hear more about the specifics of the interaction you’re talking about – i.e. what are the specific safety net policy provisions you see as working inharmoniously with the minimum wage are; more about why that’s undesirable; and then what would a better-designed minimum wage-safety net policy interaction arrangement look like?

            If you’d want to take the time to dilate that out at all, I’d be very interested to read it. I’m definitely in the opinion-forming process on these questions, and am seeking thoughtful viewpoints.

              

        • It seems like the MW gets far more discussion than its worth. It doesn’t affect that many people and from what i’ve seen doesn’t have a huge impact either way. It might be a good idea to raise it, the research is muddy, but the oxygen it takes up to discuss doesn’t seem merited.

            

          • It very strongly impacts some of the MOST vulnerable people in our society. Battered spouses, particularly those out of the workforce for a while, need a decent entry wage in order to get themselves (and their children) back on their feet.

            It’s hard enough leaving a bad relationship. America’s gotta make it unsustainable without going to a “women’s shelter”.

              

        • I was looking today, and in fact there is an outstanding youth unemployment problem in WA, which has the nation’s highest minimum wage – enough so that there are <a href="http://www.klewtv.com/news/local/WA-legislative-bill-targets-youth-unemployment-with-a-training-wage-189285381.html&quot;proposals for a training-wage carve-out from the standard minimum (though I didn’t bother to look up the proposing legislator’s position on the state’s minimum wage level per se).

          I think a phased-in higher minimum wage level that starts with a training wage and mandates increases over the first year or so of employment is an idea worth looking closer at. I would give consideration to the idea of setting the training wage below the current minimum wage in exchange for consideration of a final minimum wage that is higher than is now being considered.

            

    • Government as venture capitalist can also incorporate considerations on the plus side that make up for private sector blind spots. For instance, In-Q-Tel helping US intelligence keep up with cutting edge technology and helping startups sell into the federal government.

      And I don’t understand how high speed rail is not a necessary infrastructure investment. The US underprovision of high speed rail is embarrassing.

        

      • I remember an NPR interview a year or so ago of some kind of scholar on rail. He remarked that, yes, the US is less developed in light rail than Europe, but US is still the envy of other nations in terms of freight/heavy rail.

        As for light rail, I know this to be an issue very passionately advocated on both sides, so I try to stay out of it. Am I wrong? Can it be made clear from an economic standpoint that light rail is a “necessary infrastructure investment” such that our underprovision of it is “embarrassing”? Or does seeing this conclusion so clearly require, as I suspect it does, holding certain values about urbanization, green energy, etc. about which consensus on particulars tends to be more elusive?

          

        • I think if the interstate highways and airports are necessary infrastructure investment, then passenger rail is also necessary infrastructure. The cost in congestion in certain corridors makes high speed rail a viable solution (according to experts a sweet spot of 200-600 miles for high speed rail, where cars cover too short a distance and planes effectively cover a longer distance). Also, why should valuable landing slots be taken up by relatively close city pairs, Boston-NY, NY-DC, etc.?

          Certain views about green energy, huh, that’s a weird way to put it. If I said London-Paris by rail has 90% lower emissions than London-Paris by Eurostar, does one have to be a zero growth zealot to recognize the advantage of rail?

          It is kind of sad that a country that had the determination to build a transcontinental railway under significantly more difficult circumstances (during the Civil War!), hasn’t mustered the determination to even keep up with France, Germany, China… I’m not sure what the case against high speed rail looks like.

            

        • Tim,
          Simple economics: it is CHEAP to build a road, but the costs to maintain it ESCALATES dramatically over time.

          Rail is not like that.

          This prevents some of the perverse incentives that gov’t has to build too many roads.

            

      • I agree with CC that the “necessary” construction on infrastructure begs questions that can’t even in theory be answered. I’d listen to cases for why they can be, but until I hear a persuasive one, that’s my position.

          

        • To me it is self evident that highways, airports, and rail are all necessary infrastructure construction. The US has underinvested in rail for decades and fallen badly behind peers in linking densely populated regions where high speed rail is advisable. I don’t think it reaches anything as deep as “theory” or “values” as congestion is not a viable transportation policy (the Northeast Corridor, where I live, is crying out for high speed rail). I came to the post expecting to disagree with certain points as I agree with Obama’s agenda by and large. But high speed rail is essentially a no-brainer to me – what’s more, government involvement in rail goes back quite a ways – and I don’t understand (aside from NIMBY-sim) the convincing case against it, or the case that leaves people in a on-the-one-hand on-the-other-hand limbo.

            

  11. “I’m sure the president is right that children who start school early do better in life. I’m also willing to bet that’s as much or more to do with the fact they have parents who care enough about education to put them in preschool.”

    Excellent, excellent point, that is far too often missed when discussing the success of specific schools or broader reform movements.

      

    • So what is the value of preschool itself? Is there any?

      I’ve friends who have tons and tons of books and won’t get rid of them because they want their children to grow up smart and read in Freakonomics or some Gladwell book that kids who grow up in a household with lots of books become big readers themselves later in life — even if as kids they never read the books themselves and never see their parents reading. The presence of the books, if you ask me, is symptomatic of parents who value them, and parents who value books will instill a whole constellation of values to their children. One consequent of those values is a love of reading. But reading and books are beside the point. My friends could give all those books to charity today and their kids would all but certainly turn out the same because the books themselves aren’t the issue.

      The push for preschool seems to make the same fallacious confusion of cause for symptom. It seems that preschool is a symptom of caring, activist parents who instill the importance of education, so making preschool available to everyone will at best do nothing but spend more money, and at worst dilute whatever value is there in preschool.

        

      • To me, the primary value of preschool is in the social and emotional domains. There are a lot of social experiences that cannot be replicated in the home setting, especially with increasingly smaller families. There are also “school readiness” skills, which I’d argue technically fall under S/E but not everyone agrees. Those are things like sitting-and-attending (sometimes even including very specific notions about HOW to sit), lining up, sharing common materials, etc.

          

        • When did sitting “Indian-style” change to “criss-cross-applesauce”? Were there any in-between changes? I understand the reason for the change; I’m just curious about when it happened.

            

          • When I started working with kids in 2002, the shift had begun but was far from complete.

            Now, in 2012, I don’t know that I’ve heard “Indian-style” at all. Not everyone uses criss-cross-apple-sauce. Some schools/philosophies have their own language, such as “Getting steady.” And not even everyone requires this way of sitting.

              

      • This cause/effect mixup can also explain a lot (but not all) of the benefits of charter schools as well. A parent who is willing to research school choice, enter lotteries, and jump through the many hoops just to get their child into a charter school is likely going to see better outcomes for his/her child regardless of where they go.

        Private/independent schools as well, though there are other factors going on there as well.

        Any time you have a self-selecting group putting forth the time and energy to seek better outcomes, they’re probably going to find better outcomes.

          

      • http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/06/13/137109349/the-friday-podcast-the-case-for-preschool

        There was a decades long study about kids who received some pre-school and those who did not. This was in a community where pre-schooling was not the norm.

        Revisiting the kids as young adults or adults revealed that those with pre-school were less likely to have been arrested, more likely to have higher wages and higher levels of education.

          

      • I also think there have been studies done about the differences between people who were read to as small children and those who were not in terms of academic performance.

        Tim might be right about the educational values of the parents but this is where government policy can step in. By making pre-K universal, you give a chance for kids whose parents do not value education or do not read to them to get a little caught up. Parenting culture is important but so is access.

          

        • ND,

          As an early childhood teacher, please let me be clear and say that I think there is indeed value in pre-school education. I just think that folks often fail to realize that school is but one factor in a child’s education and that cursory examinations of results from self-selecting populations are hard to rely on.

          I am a proponent of early childhood education, including universal preschool, because if an effective model(s) is/are adopted, it can have a ripple effect upward long term. If EVERYONE, or almost everyone, is in a quality preschool, those kids will collectively enter K a bit stronger. K will then output 1st graders a bit stronger. Onward and upward. Of course, this whole idea is dependent upon teachers and systems that can respond to the changing needs and abilities of kids, something we are currently not designed for.

            

          • I agree that universal pre-K is but one factor but it is the factor that government can do more about than anything else.

            Unless you want a really micro-managing government, we are not going to be able to change the opinions of people who are apathetic to education or get them to act like members of the read to your kid’s class.

            Universal pre-K can help with this stuff a bit and if the research is to be believed it also helps prevent against prison sentences.

            Billions spent on universal pre-K are better than billions spent on prisons.

              

          • Agreed. And as Tim’s initial quote points out, it is not that PreK/preschool are wholly ineffectual or invaluable. Only that a portion, perhaps a significant one, of the improved outcomes of students who go to preschool has nothing to do with their action preschool experience. Which, really, is a no-brainer.

              

  12. I think both speeches were okay. Obama’s was a full-throated defense of liberalism which is to be expected and Rubio’s was a defense of conservatism. My takeaways would be that I still don’t think the Dems are really interested in entitlement reform and I also don’t know where we are going to get the money to pay for some of the initiatives unless we tax more than just the upper incomes.

    Water issues aside, Rubio did a good job, but not a great one. He did put forth some good criticisms on the President’s plans, but I agree with David Brooks in that he never talked about how the GOP can promote social mobility which is something that affects person of color greatly. With wages stagnant, a the rising tide of the economy isn’t lifting all boats, so the market alone isn’t going to cut it. The GOP has to find a way to see a positive, but limited role for government to help in fostering social mobility. I think we are starting some serious thought about that in the GOP, but it still isn’t fleshed out yet.

      

    • ” I still don’t think the Dems are really interested in entitlement reform ”
      *eyebrow*

      We just spent how many YEARS discussing entitlement reform (under the nick “Obamacare”), and you’re not really sure if they’re interested?

      Paychecks are being cut right now, sir.

      We’ve gone from “interested” to “passed a bill” to “actually trying to affect some fundamental market change”. (now if you want to piss and moan about liberals coming up with some cockamamie “new market” that works differently than the “old market” — i’ll be right there along with you. PROVIDED you can come up with a way to have the old market go back to how it worked in the days of Hillarycare).

        

    • The only serious thought we see from the GOP is Moah Blaming. Other than that, it’s all just wishful thinking from the GOP, trying to paste some New ‘n Improved label on tins of the same old dodgy provenance.

      When is the GOP going to quit pandering and get serious about the poor and middle class? Why are they still licking the boots of the military? That’s particularly gruesome to behold, their buns-up kneeling and slavering over the Defense Budget. It is understandable, I suppose. It’s welfare of a sort: contractors, soldiers, trying to keep all those hoary old bases open in their districts.

      Hasn’t the GOP’s bellicose rhetoric gotten us all in trouble as a nation, for long enough, that they won’t see reason? A mighty crop of tombstones have cropped up in graveyards all over this country, with good people under them, dead in wars we didn’t need to fight. For goodness’ sake, the GOP has shoved Bush43 into the Closet of Shame. Why can’t they constrain their Soldier Boy fetish? It’s loathsome.

      While the GOP refuses to deal with waste and fraud in the Defense Budget, while they insist on preserving every last porkulous perk lest the Turrists Win, while the brunt of the entirely necessary spending reductions must be borne by everyone else in society, belay all this talk about Serious Thought. They’re not serious.

        

      • As a conservative I frequent a lot of conservatives blogs and most if not all are fine with a reduction in the Defense Budget. And plenty like myself believe if we aren’t going to fight to win a war then we need to get the heck out of Afghanistan.

        Was there not a demand to do something – to take action – from the citizenry after 9/11? Do you think that the U.S. should just espouse words of freedom or should those words have meaning or should we advance the cause of freedom when necessary? Especially when it is partially in defense of nation and partially a matter of justice.

          

        • Maybe the lot of you can call up your Republican leadership types and give them an earful.

          Ma’am, I have been around long enough to see this country demand Something Be Done about lots of things having to do with Freedom from this and Freedom from that. Every time I hear those noises, I know something stupid is just about to happen, in spades.

          If this country and its conservatives gave a goddamn about Advancing the Cause of Freedom and Defendin’ this Fine Nation of Ours, they would have started right here at home. That didn’t happen. When the CIA warned Bush43 about Al Qaeda, absolutely nothing was done. And everything they did after 9/11 was wrong. Every last bit of it. They screwed up Afghanistan, wouldn’t get those Pashtun people on our side, wouldn’t ever wage war on terror. They couldn’t even find Afghanistan on a map, took a wrong turn in the Indian Ocean and ended up in goddamn Iraq. I wouldn’t trust these people with anything sharper than a rubber ball, ma’am, nor to find their asses in the dark with both hands and a flashlight.

            

    • But what does entitlement reform actually mean? A lot of the time the phrase seems to mean “cut benefits. full stop.” It’s not about making the systems work better or, horror of horrors, cover more people and better. The ACA,whether anybody likes to think of that way, was entitlement reform. Reform aimed at covering everybody and putting in place cost controls. A better question might be what sort of reforms do SS and Medicaid/Care need and why? I’ll state that SS is not in nearly the trouble people think it is so it doesn’t need much reforming at all. Medicaid/Care have a problem mostly due to the rising costs of ALL health care. You can’t solve the MC problem, whatever that is, without controlling costs in general. D’s have been putting forward reforms on HC, R’s…well they have put forward cuts and not much else.

        

      • Entitlement reform is shorthand for “It should hurt”. Not to everyone, but that’s pretty much how it’s used in op-eds and talking heads on TV.

        Wonks talk about actual reform — makeing it better, cheaper, more efficient, whether to change to another system or privatize it or whether it’s necessary it all.

        But when it’s used in politics, it almost universally means “Cut harshly”. Because pain means you are serious.

        Your medicine has to taste bitter. Call it a legacy of our Puritan roots — if it’s not hurting, you’re not doing the Right Thing.

          

  13. What concerned me was Obama did not address or have an answer to the highest levels of poverty, unemployment, joblessness, and economic stagnation our nation has ever seen? That was bothersome to me!

      

        • I skimmed those sources and some others. I’ll keep thinking on it. Seems to me the transfers are obviously having some effect. If it’s not in loss of net jobs, then the effects are somewhere. Some say minimum wage laws are backed by skilled labor unions and large companies to eliminate smaller competition who is less able to compete if MW is increased. That seems plausible. And NPR piece this afternoon talked to a small restaurant owner who said he’d likely have employees come in a half hour later and send them home during lulls in business to offset the requirement.

          Here’s a related concept. A friend owns a business and employs a couple dozen young employees developing video games. He told me recently that a big factor in deciding whether and how much of a raise to give is whether they have a family and kids. I was taken aback: Should Alex earn less than Bill, even if they do the same work, just because Bill is married with children? But family is an important value to my friend, and its his right to pay what he sees fit. Would I do the same? I care about family too, after all. And theirs is a small firm—they work closely together and talk about their families and what they did over the weekend. It’s not a faceless corporation where they chisel away every last nickel and never have to account to their employees. Then again, I generally reject the tenet “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” TANSTAAFL and all that.

          The idea of a culturally acceptable “minimum wage” is also helpful when I hire part time help on occasion—I like to know what a decent hourly rate is, add a couple more if they’re especially qualified and because I like to be a nice guy.

          So I balk at making that minimum wage a legal requirement, but I’m not entirely against some of the underlying moral and social concepts involved.

            

          • Your friend’s approach is interesting, though I’m not sure I’m on fully on board (and I say this as someone who is married and expecting a child in the coming months).

            I wonder though.. is it legal?

              

          • And if it isn’t… how interesting that primarily liberal laws (such as those against discrimination in hiring and pay) might make a more communist (“from each according to his ability, to each according to his need”) approach to wages illegal!

              

          • The whole concept of wage differentials gives me indigestion. As I understand it, you’ve started and run a tech outfit, so I hope this doesn’t come across as condescending, truly it isn’t intended that way. I speak only to what I know.

            In every software outfit, maybe 20% of the personnel are truly outstanding and they do the lion’s share of the work. Anyone can consult the version control system and see who’s doing what in the system. If you can’t suss out your most productive coders, you shouldn’t be supervising them, so let’s presume the owner of the video game firm in your example knows who these people are. There’s a strong argument for paying his coders accordingly and I suspect he does.

            But I’ve been in software consulting long enough to know who really makes the money in these situations. It’s not the coders. It’s management and the middlemen. After a while, every good coder knows when it’s time to move on: he’s not going to get a raise based on what he’s doing or how much value he’s adding to the firm. He’ll simply pack up and leave.

            Management is always So Surprised and Shocked to see the 20%er leave. Often there’s a big acrimonious go-round in the manager’s office during exit interview where the coder lets the manager have it with both barrels: you made a ton of money off me, saddled me with your loser coders, gave me no mandate, ignored my suggestions and were generally an impediment to progress.

            Software really ought to form up a trade union to address this problem. I know you hate trade unions on principle, that’s your problem. But I’ve stayed in code and until quite recently steered clear of middle management. I have no loyalty to anyone any more. I hate what’s become of my industry. Of all the industries in the world today, software requires some skills hierarchy where masters guide journeymen who guide apprentices. All this talk about unit cohesion is baloney, Tim. Hanging around after work is not a substitute for recognising talent and allowing it to guide the process. Most of the software produced today is absolute crap — with a few exceptions in the open source community, where such hierarchies are accepted.

              

          • As far as I understand, you will still be able to come to Hershey Park and watch people being paid under minimum wage, and working 12+ hour days.

            Unless you have a problem with that, in which case you can boycott.

            What we do in this country is provide certain categories of jobs that are allowed to pay under minimum wage.

            Is that a good system? I don’t know.

              

          • @Patrick: at the 20% point, the value drops off precipitously. The remaining 80% do just enough to not get fired. They’re also very friendly people, these 80%ers. When there’s a crisis, though, we know who gets the call and it ain’t them.

              

  14. Raising the minimum wage to 9 bucks an hour isn’t the worst thing in the world; at the end of the day, it probably wouldn’t do much to employment rates on net.

    Tying it automatically to inflation, though, is just about the worst policy proposal I can think of.

      

    • No, strike that. The President said that he wanted to “tie the minimum wage to the cost of living”. That’s an even worse policy that just tying it to inflation.

        

      • Hmm…I don’t know the difference between COLA and inflation and the results it would have, but up here in Washington, we haven’t turned into a post-apocalyptic wasteland because the minimum wage gets bumped up a quarter or two every year.

          

        • Doing things on a state level is not the same thing as doing things on a national level. What may work in Washington may not work in other locations with different economic conditions.

          But, that said, Washington had a higher than average youth unemployment rate – which serves as a proxy of the employability of the lowest skillled, min wage level workers – while having an average overall unemployment rate.

          Plus, Washington is using national CPI calcs (though CPI-W, the narrower and (typically) more labor friendly one), which, yes, conventionally is what people are talking about when they are talking about ‘Cost of Living’ increases – but actually don’t capture the variation in the actual Cost of Living from location to location.

          Since Obama finished the statement with ‘so it finally becomes a wage you can live on’ I presume he actually wants something more akin ‘living wage’ legislation.

          All I have to say is I’m glad I’m not young and poor, and have some pretty good hedges against inflation at this point in my life.

            

          • Yes, because paying people decent wages in Alabama just won’t work for some reason. It’s much easier to pay them less than a living wage and pay for the costs that result from that down the road (crappy kids, crime, etcetera) than just ya’ know, pay for the costs up front instead of waiting to clean up the mess of poverty 30 years down the line.

            But, I’ll be the resident social democrat and say, yes, if you work 40 hours a week and you’re an adult (or an emancipated minor), your pay should be enough where you can have a basic livelihood (and to stop a Jaybird run-in, I’m very flexible on ‘basic’) without depending on government assistance.

            To your last point, I’ll be blunt, I’m probably younger and more poor than you are, but I’m not afraid of the hyperinflation monster that every right-leaning person has been since 2008. I’ll also point out that $9/hr is what Obama actually proposed and isn’t actually close to a living wage, but it’s a nice start.

              

          • I’m not worried about hyperinflation. A return, though, of the inflationary conditions of the 60’s and 70’s is definitely possible, especially if we bring back the policies of the 60’s & 70’s. But I’m long in real estate and stocks, as well as having one source of income that itself is COLA adjusted, so I’ll be fine.

              

    • If you’re even going to bother having a minimum wage, not tying it to inflation makes it pointless. It’s supposed to be a floor, not quicksand right?

      That said, a citizen’s dividend/GMI type thing would make more sense than a wage floor really. It amuses me how shrieks of “socialism!!!” actually head off simpler measures and make more regulation inevitable.

        

      • Like I said, I got mine when it was my time. Looks like young people are going to get f***’d one last time by the Boomers before they sail into the undying lands.

          

  15. Okay, Morat, Acorn was required to get multiple votes for the same person and encourage people to use other names like Mickey Mouse using their same address. Whatever…. You must be ignorant.

      

    • That is voter registration fraud, not vote fraud. They are different things. The actual victim of the fraud when someone registers as Mickey Mouse is the org that is getting the signature. That someone registers as D. Duck doesn’t mean a vote has been cast nor that one ever will be.

        

    • You bring up Faux News talking points about an organization that’s been disbanded (by Congress) and no longer exists, using it in a shit-wall of garbage to simply smear the president — very unpatriotic of you – without any recognition that Republican operatives have also done the same thing, (voter-registration fraud), and actively actually tried to prevent people from voting — and then call people who challenge your nonsense idiots?

      That’s not very Christian. It’s not very ladylike, but I can understand that because I question your actual gender from your tone both here and on your blog; and it’s against the comment rules. Don’t call people ignorant when the offer proof that you’ve said something that’s ignorant.

        

      • I don’t like where this is going. Teresa should not have said “You must be ignorant.” Zic, you’ve escalated the incivility.

        Please be nice. And if not for my sake, then for the sake of effectively making your case: Anyone who’s worth persuading to your view will see the demerits of your opponent’s arguments without shoving them in their face, and they will appreciate your restraint from doing so and be more willing to consider what you have to say going forward.

          

    • ACORN was required, by law, to turn in every filled out registration form.

      They are barred, by law, from destroying ones even if they know they are fallacious.

      That is the law. You can call it ignorant if you want, but that is the law. It was put in place because voter registration drives would register voters then toss out the registrations for people who registered with the wrong party, or were of the wrong (likely to vote for the wrong side) demographics. And then those people would, having thought they were registered, show up to vote only to be unable to do so.

      Hence the law.

      Accusing me of ignorance for pointing out a simple, easily verified fact does not do your position any credit.

      ACORN registered voters. Each form they registered had to be turned in, even if they suspected — or knew — they were falsified. As I noted, ACORN tended to lump the ones they suspected were bad together, to make it easier for the state to weed them out.

      Which, again, is by law something only state officials are allowed to do.

        

      • In addition, in cases where ACORN suspected fraud by their hired voter registration staff, they not only turned those suspect registrations in as required by law, but they separated them out and alerted state authorities to their suspicions about the registrations’ validity. See, for example, here.

        Before Teresa accuses others of ignorance, she would do well to clear up her own lack of accurate knowledge about this matter.

          

  16. Hello! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a collection of volunteers and starting a new project in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us useful information to work on. You have done a wonderful job!|

      

  17. Re: Partisanship. So how highly partisan are the R’s now that they may filibuster Hagel’s nomination to SECDEF. A dude who is fishin republican and in the last few years has been spoken of very hightly by the very same R’s who may prevent him from being appointed to SECDEF. Typically Pres’s get a lot of leeway, correctly, in hiring the cabinet they want, yet somehow an actual R, Hagel, is now so terrible he can’t get the job without breaking a filibuster.

      

  18. Hagel is a Democrat masquerading as a Republican. He’s worse than a Rino. Instead of being nice and compromising like they usually do the GOP is following the way the Democrats have treated past GOP presidents nominees.

      

    • ummm Hagel was elected as a Republican Senator from Nebraska twice (1999-2007). FWIW his rating was 84% from the American Conservative Union. So yeah i can see how he is a RINO.

        

      • Yes, exactly. So, remind me again, why did a Democratic President nominate him for one of the Big 4 cabinet positions? And why left & left-center folks are going to the mattresses to defend him?

          

        • I think Obama wanted him as a form of triangulation. “See how bipartisan my foreign policy is? Even mainstream Republicans like Gates and Hagel agree with it.” Of course, today’s GOP are way too wacko to take yes for an answer.

            

          • Eh, someone needed to show Reid what an idiot was. Might as well let a Republican get smacked around.

            The Senate GOP has gotten crazier. It’s like all they can do is vote “no” and squack “Benghazi!”

              

    • No, Hagel is, for the most part, a conservative Republican. He stepped off the reservation when it came to defense and foreign policy and became anathema to the current crop of Republican warmongers (aka neocons). The confirmation has become personal, as shown by McCain’s latest whine, which amounts to saying Hagel didn’t fall in line with Bush’s failed Iraq policy and therefore must be punished. That’s part of the reason they,re making unprecedented requests for documentation, trying to find something or anything to tar Hagel with.

      Republicans have a nasty habit of eating their dissenters.

        

      • Don’t forget the smeartastic lies out of Breitbart. com aka The Lie Factory about Hagel and some made up group known as The Friend of Hamas. What is funny is the lies about the made up group came out and none of the alleglely liberal MSM uncovered it. It was Weigal at Slate who actually did a bit of research but NBC, CNN, WaPO, NYT, etc did squat.

          

    • You know, what gets me about Theresa’s statement — which I have no doubt she believes — is the buried insult in it.

      In all fairness, Theresa’s not in on the insult. She’s not trying to insult anyone (well, except possibly Hagel. Or maybe she’s just being descriptive). But by describing Hagel like that, which is just echoing the current Talking Point of the Day, it’s basically telling me:

      “You are literally too stupid to remember last week. Or last year. Or the last decade”.

      And it’s getting so common as to be ridiculous, to see people get up there and tell not just a lie — we’re all used to that — but a lie so that blatantly contradicts established facts and recent history.

        

  19. As far as Hagel’s grade or percentage and deciphering whether he is considered a conservative or not, this depends on which group is grading his conservative credentials, or his political positions. He gets anywhere from a 0 to a 100%. I’d have to sift through a few to find out the reasoning why he got either a high or a low score. From what I’ve read and heard him say on a few occasions regarding policies I don’t agree with his positions so I’m just fine with Hagel not being confirmed. But I do think that an up or down vote should be allowed. But I can understand the Republicans filibustering since Democrats have done the same thing many times with regards to GOP judicial nominees.

    “Of course, these desperate claims are entirely false: the Senate has already confirmed more of President Obama’s nominees (129) than it did during President George W. Bush’s entire second term (120), and has done so at an almost identical pace (average of 218 and 211 days, respectively, from nomination to confirmation). Indeed, not long ago Reid acknowledged that the Senate has “done a good job on nominations,” and a Judiciary Committee Democrat recently noted that we have been “speeding up the confirmation of judges.”

    “Claims of Republican obstruction are not only demonstrably false, they are highly hypocritical. The very Democrats now seeking to manufacture confirmation controversy personally devised and carried out a systematic effort to block President Bush’s judicial nominees through an unprecedented use of the Senate filibuster. ”

    http://www.lee.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/op-eds?ID=27dac90e-11a3-48d1-b970-19c2894530a5

    To me blocking a nominee is blocking a nominee and it doesn’t matter what department or job its for so, yes, this may be the first time a nominee for Secretary of Defense has been filibustered but I don’t see it as hypocritical or a big problem.

      

    • A self-serving press release from a tea party senator is hardly evidence. While Democratic senators did threaten to filibuster five or so of Bush’s far-right judicial nominees, they eventually reached accord with Republicans and the Senate confirmed all but one. Republicans have been far more flagrant about holding up Obama’s judicial nominations (they did the same with Clinton). Lee’s press release is, um, misleading at best–more Republican false equivalency.

      http://www.afj.org/judicial-selection/afj-senate-rules-reform-short-report-11-29-12.pdf

      Republicans have been systematically blocking Obama’s court appointments creating problems for federal courts that are already overtaxed. Given the dim view so many Republicans take of the court system, their intrangience isn’t necessarily surprising, but let’s not pretend that both sides do it at the same level. Republican senators have abused the filibuster at unprecedented levels during Obama’s term.

        

      • From the above linked article:

        District court confirmation data reflects Republicans’ newfound willingness to block previously uncontroversial nominees. For instance, while President Obama has made only one fewer district court nomination than President George W. Bush had made at a comparable point in his presidency (173 to 174, respectively), the Senate has confirmed only 128 of President Obama’s district nominees, whereas it had confirmed 167 of President Bush’s. Put another way, in a comparable period the Senate confirmed 96% of President Bush’s nominees and only 74% of President Obama’s nominees.ix

        Recent Republican obstructionism was not limited to district court nominees, of course. In July of this year, for example, Republicans successfully filibustered Magistrate Judge Robert Bacharach’s nomination to a Tenth Circuit seat based in Oklahoma. This marked the first time that a circuit court nominee who had been reported to the floor with bipartisan support was successfully filibustered. Oklahoma Republican Senators Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe strongly supported Bacharach’s nomination, with Senator Coburn even criticizing the Senate for stalling on the nomination. On Bacharach’s cloture vote, however, both merely voted ‘present,’ which was effectively the same as voting ‘no.’x Bacharach’s nomination is still pending.

        In sum, Republicans have a sustained record of using senate procedure to block even uncontroversial nominees throughout the Obama presidency.

          

        • The Alliance for Justice is a highly partisan liberal group. If you think that’s non-partisan you are highly mistaken. Its at least as partisan as your claims against a Tea Party Senator’s article.

          “However noble its rhetoric, the
          Alliance’s actions are neither fair nor just.
          No other political advocacy group has
          done more over the last two decades to
          undermine the integrity of the federal judicial confirmation process. None has tried
          harder to polarize public policy debate.
          Seldom has a nonprofit group been as
          successful in using character assassination to achieve its ideological objectives.”

          Here are a number of examples of distortions conjured up by the Alliance for Justice – http://www.capitalresearch.org/pubs/pdf/x3759746580.pdf

          You can look at this site to see how the various conservative groups rate Hagel. http://votesmart.org/candidate/evaluations/231/charles-hagel/17#.UR-AE6VJ7A9

          The number of filibusters does not necessarily determine whether there is an over usage of the filibuster rule or not. It depends on how many bills and nominees are up for a vote during each session of Congress. I would have to look into the number of bills the Democrats tried to pass, the number of nominees brought up for confirmation versus the Republicans. But I would say if you didn’t agree with bills or individuals’ confirmations would you be okay with Democrats filibustering? Democrats have that same right so that’s why I have no problem with the GOP filibustering.

            

          • Being partisan doesn’t mean they have their facts wrong. They don’t. Republicans are impeding Obama’s judicial nominees to the point it’s having a deleterious effect on the federal courts. Even some Republicans are now beginning to balk at their colleagues obstinacy.

            http://www.rollcall.com/news/republicans_split_on_judicial_nominees-219195-1.html

            This past Congress considered far less legislation than any Congress in the last couple of decades, by far, because Republican leadership made clear they’d require a 60-vote super majority to get anything of consequence passed in the Senate. So, far fewer bills came up for a vote and a far, far greater number faced filibuster. Math–it’s a bitch.

              

          • And yes, I would have a problem with Democrats using the filibuster to block judicial nominations who have broad bipartisan support. When two senators in Oklahoma, both known for being extremely conservative, support an Obama nominee and other Republicans decide to block the nomination anyway, there’s a real problem, a real abuse of power.

              

          • Finally, citing an uber-right wing organization which is dedicated to trying to defund any organization they see as left of center does not count as providing evidence against the facts those organizations disseminate. The propaganda piece you link to isn’t even germane to the argument.

            Also, regarding your link to how conservative groups rank Hagel–the majority give him pretty high marks. Even the rabidly rightwing John Birch society gives him a 55 percent rating. He’s hardly in RINO territory.

              

          • Republicans are impeding Obama’s judicial nominees to the point it’s having a deleterious effect on the federal courts.

            And not for the first time. The same thing happened during the Clinton administration, to the point where William Rehnquist (hardly a liberal Democrat) announced that the federal courts were critically understaffed.

              

    • To me blocking a nominee is blocking a nominee and it doesn’t matter what department or job its for so, yes, this may be the first time a nominee for Secretary of Defense has been filibustered but I don’t see it as hypocritical or a big problem.

      Really? So there’s no difference between a nominee to an independent judiciary that checks both other branches and a nominee who works directly for the President?

      It seems that the new rule is that all of the members of a Democratic president’s cabinet should be good loyal Republicans or the nomination is nothing short of an insult to the Republican minority.

        

  20. Basically your saying because its from a Tea Party member he couldn’t possibly have the facts correct but your extreme left wing partisan citation is factual even though its so biased and filled with partisan chicanery. That’s tolerance for ya. Progressives who claim to be open minded and tolerant are the most closed minded and intolerant people and you just showed that.

    Anyone who thinks that a 55% rating means that the GOP member isn’t a RINO is clueless and living in an alternate reality. Of course you are clueless because you are an anti-constitutionalist progressive who doesn’t know what qualifies a person to be considered a conservative. You may think you know but you are misinformed.

      

    • Nope, I’m saying that facts are facts regardless of where they came from and that a puff piece from a far right organization that doesn’t even address the points being discussed does not make your argument for you. The facts are that the Senate in the Obama years has failed to move Obama’s judicial nominations through the Senate at anywhere near the pace Bush’s nominees were approved. And until you come up with some relevant information that disputes those facts, you’re just whistling Dixie. But I’m obviously talking past you because you don’t seem to get the difference between facts and opinion. It’s not a matter of tolerance or being open-minded. It’s a matter of sorting out genuine information no matter the bias of the source, given all sources are inherently biased.

      I’d also ask that you take a look at the link you posted because most of those conservative groups ranked Hagel pretty highly. A 55 percent from the uber-rightwing conspiracy John Birch society doesn’t make him a RINO. Although a RINO these days seems to be anybody who’s not a hard right ideologue, which is why Lindsay Graham is terrified about being primaries.

        

      • Anyone who thinks that a 55% rating means that the GOP member isn’t a RINO is clueless and living in an alternate reality. Of course you are clueless because you are an anti-constitutionalist progressive who doesn’t know what qualifies a person to be considered a conservative. You may think you know but you are misinformed.

        This kind of bitchy ad hominem attack pretty much tells me all I need to know about you. It says that when your back is up against the wall and you have no ability to defend you opinion with actual evidence, you resort to emotive name -calling. It also shows me that you ain’t all that bright.

          

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