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(if I were) King of (the) Forest Posts

Beating a Dead Horse: Social Security Edition

On 25 Feb 2009 the Boston Globe published a commentary by Alicia Munnell, a professor at Boston College, which explained why she thought that Social Security was not in trouble. As it happens, the same week Joe Conason’s column at Salon addressed pretty much the same topic and with the same general conclusion.

This week Salon published a pre-emptive strike by Michael Lind intended to minimize the impact of a dismal report by the Trustees of the Social Security Administration on the state of Social Security and Medicad by arguing that the Trustees got it wrong — that Social Security is fundamentally sound.

Once again I find myself amazed at the level of myopia the subject of Social Security elicits. And so once again I find myself trying to find a way to make people see what I see. I know, this is getting repetitive. But it’s important!

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Addicted to earmarks

On an individual basis, if we refuse the earmarks targeted at us but other people don’t refuse the ones targeted at them, then we end up paying for their earmarks without benefiting from our own. So, on an individual basis, we end up worse off by refusing earmarks unless we can count on everyone else doing likewise.

Hence, the system is perpetuated: if/when individuals stand up to it, they end up losers while everyone else takes advantage of them. Only a universal agreement from the top to change the system can work; insurrection from the bottom is suppressed by self-interest.

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Bailing Out the Auto Industry

Am I the only one in America who has grave doubts about whether the combination of marketing vision, business acumen, strategic sense, operating experience, and hard-nosed decision making required to rejuvenate the American auto industry is really to be found in the Congress of the United States and the editorial board of The New York Times?


Are we about to force Detroit, through the strictures Congress puts on the bailout funds, out of a market (larger vehicles) in which they had clear dominance and into a market (for smaller fuel-efficient vehicle) in which they have historically had a hard time competing and for which competition is likely to be even fiercer in the future?

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Lies and the Big Lie

Forget that McCain has spent the last 8 years bucking both President and Party to bring an alternate vision of conservatism to the fore. Forget that he worked across the aisle when he could. Forget that he stood up for what he thought was best for the country even when it meant undermining his own chances at the presidency. No, the Democratic strategy in this, and in every other race, has been to ignore the actual candidate in front of them, to replace that candidate with their cardboard cutout of George Bush and then to flail at it mercilessly.

I have great sympathy for John McCain. It’s one thing to be beaten on the basis of your proposals or your temperament or your philosophy of government, or by bad timing and unfortunate circumstance. But to be beaten by the lie that you are what you hate, by the lie that you stand for the things you’ve spent your time and your political capital resisting — that must be the ultimate bitter pill.

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The Patriotism of Paying Taxes

In early October of 2008, about a month before the election, Thomas Friedman used his column in The New York Times to castigate Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin for claiming, in her debate with Joe Biden, that paying taxes was not patriotic.  He waxed eloquent about shared responsibilities for government.  He quoted Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said, “I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization.”  And he made a fully valid point that a candidate who advocated for various things that required increased government spending — as Sarah Palin had in advocating for the financial rescue plan that was currently in work and for continuing the pursuit of a stable democratic end-game in Iraq — was hardly in a position to criticize the need to pay for them.

But, despite that, Friedman was knocking down a straw-man of his own construction.  Friedman accused Palin of declaring “…that Americans who pay their fair share of taxes to support all those government-led endeavors should not be considered patriotic.”  But that isn’t what she actually said.  She didn’t say  that “paying taxes”, per se, was not patriotic.  Rather, she refuted (in her typically inarticulate and, therefore, easily misrepresentable way) Biden’s claim that people had a patriotic duty to pay higher taxes than they were already paying in order to fund the innumerable list of government programs — far larger than anything Palin had proposed — that he and his running mate, Barack Obama, were advocating.

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Some Numbers on Solar Power

8 October 2008

I have a home construction project looming in my future, and I decided that would be a good opportunity to upgrade my environmental footprint (and reduce my energy bills) by adding a solar electrical generation system to the mix. So I did some research on what it would cost me and what I could expect to gain from it. My summary: we aren’t there yet.

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Celebrity Campaign Contributions

About a month before the election, a small news story appeared about Bruce Springsteen performing a minor concert at a Barack Obama campaign rally. That brought to mind an earlier report of Barbara Streisand doing something similar and the big news from the primary season of Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement and appearance at an Obama event.

Those stories, and many less significant but similar instances of celebrities campaigning for various candidates, made me muse about the value of celebrity endorsements and how they should play into our paranoia about money and influence in political campaigns. It seemed (and seems) to me that celebrity endorsements are no less valuable when given for free to political campaigns than they would be if some company had to pay for them as part of their advertising strategy. The same is true of celebrities plying their trades on behalf of campaigns: they replace money a campaign would otherwise need to spend on publicity, yet they are not valued as money under the campaign finance rules.

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Bailout or Rescue?

Might it not be better described as a “rescue” of the innocent bystanders rather than as a “bailout” of the miscreants? If the primary effect is not to prevent Wall Street from suffering but to prevent their suffering from spreading — to ensure that their suffering doesn’t result in a general contraction in capital available for productive enterprises and for home purchases — that doesn’t sound nearly as horrible as all the news reports make it out to be.

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No, It’s NOT Obvious

Back in August the editorial board of The Boston Globe published a diatribe about the stupidity of anyone who couldn’t see how wonderful the world would be if only we would reduce the speed limit back to 55 miles per hour.

OK, that wasn’t really what the editorial said. It was only implied. But their sanctimony annoyed me enough to prompt this response.

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