Friday, November 12, 2010

Oh Jeeze....

This guy wants to chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee:
First, he noted God's post-Flood promise to Noah in Genesis 8:21-22.

"Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though all inclinations of his heart are evil from childhood and never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done.

"As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, will never cease."

"I believe that's the infallible word of God, and that's the way it's going to be for his creation," Shimkus said.

Then he quoted Matthew 24:31.

"And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds from one end of the heavens to the other."

"The Earth will end only when God declares it's time to be over. Man will not destroy this Earth. This Earth will not be destroyed by a flood," Shimkus asserted. "I do believe that God's word is infallible, unchanging, perfect."

Dear, Sweet Jesus....

Are My Missing Something?

This is really concerning. I'm wondering if I'm missing something?
If you really get into the guts of the Simpson-Bowles deficit plan, what you'll find are a lot of caps. Most of the early savings come from a cap on discretionary spending that "rolls discretionary spending back to FY2010 levels for FY2012, requires [a] 1% cut in discretionary budget authority every year from FY2013 though 2015" and then indexes discretionary spending growth to inflation from 2015 to 2020. They've got some "recommendations on how to apply the caps," which mostly apply to congressional procedure, and they offer ideas for where the discretionary cuts might come from, but those are just "illustrative." The plan is the cap, and however you hit the cap, it nets you $1.46 trillion by 2020.

This makes even less sense.
There's also a cap on taxes. That's a bit odd, as there's no real reason a commission dedicated to reducing the budget deficit should be limiting the revenues we can bring in to reduce that deficit, but it's there nonetheless. The cap is 21 percent of GDP, which is a bit above the 19 percent of GDP that's been the historical average, and the 18.5 percent of GDP that was the case in 2007. Again, they don't say how exactly we should hit that level, but they offer some options, and note that if we get there, it'll net us $751 billion by 2020.

And that's most of the plan. It's also the best way to think about the plan. Even if Congress did seriously consider this proposal, the details would never make it through the legislative process intact. The commission doesn't pretend otherwise, offering "illustrative" specifics rather than throwing its weight behind detailed plans. What they've largely outlined are the spending and revenue targets they think we'll need over the next few decades, and the areas we need to consider if we're to hit them. In their telling, that means more revenues and fewer tax expenditures (like the mortgage-interest deduction), less discretionary spending in both the defense and non-defense sectors, some reforms to Social Security and, over the long-term, substantially slower growth in the health-care sector.

So wait. Nothing's spelled out. Nothing's going to make it through as is. And wait up, it curbs Social Security, doesn't have a carbon tax, and has cuts to defense spending. Seems a little worrying.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Welcome Back To Our Map

I was just reading about how Pat Toomey didn't beat Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia turnout did. I hadn't really gone into how Democratic turnout returning to normal or worse hurt Democrats, because I had been looking at how good Republican turnout was. As I read it, it dawned on me, maybe this isn't the generational shock we think. Maybe it was just a loss, and that's it.

Why does this matter? I mean, 60 plus seats are 60 plus seats. An apple's an apple. Well, there's two ways to view this. Either you believe the 2010 mid-terms are a generational move, where the nation returned to the right-of-center politics of Reagan, and now will draw a GOP friendly map that holds for at least a decade, ushering in the end of Obama, or you believe that in two years the Democrats will win the Presidency, gain seats, and usher out the Reagan era for good, with re-districting being a side note since most of the new seats will be in places young people and Latinos live, not the old angry types. The answer you choose of these two takes us a long way towards where we're going.

The answer will play out immediately too. All told, 63 Republican House members live in seats that President Obama carried in 2008. A solid 13 are in Kerry seats from 2004. The Democrats need just 21 seats in 2012 to re-take the House, and no winning party (the party that netted more new seats) has failed to win that many new seats since 2004. A whopping 75% of "McCain Democratic" seats (Democrats in a McCain district) fell in 2010, so if that holds up for President Obama, in the event he wins again, the House is back blue, with room to spare. The list of Republicans in these seats are:
California's 3rd
California's 24th
California's 25th
California's 26th
California's 44th
California's 45th
California's 48th
California's 50th
Florida's 8th
Florida's 10th
Florida's 18th
Florida's 22nd*
Illinois' 6th
Illinois' 8th (race not called but GOP candidate leads)
Illinois' 10th*
Illinois' 11th
Illinois' 13th
Illinois' 14th
Illinois' 16th
Illinois' 17th*
Illinois' 18th
Iowa's 4th
Kansas' 3rd
Michigan's 1st
Michigan's 4th
Michigan's 6th
Michigan's 7th
Michigan's 8th
Michigan's 11th
Minnesota's 3rd
Minnesota's 8th*
Nebraska's 2nd
Nevada's 3rd
New Hampshire's 1st
New Hampshire's 2nd*
New Jersey's 2nd
New Jersey's 3rd
New Jersey's 7th
New York's 1st (race not called but GOP candidate leads)
New York's 19th
New York's 20th
New York's 23rd (race not called but GOP candidate leads)
New York's 24th
North Carolina's 2nd
Ohio's 1st
Ohio's 12th
Ohio's 15th*
Pennsylvania's 6th*
Pennsylvania's 7th*
Pennsylvania's 8th*
Pennsylvania's 11th*
Pennsylvania's 15th*
Texas' 23rd
Texas' 27th (race not called by GOP candidate leads)
Virginia's 2nd
Virginia's 4th
Virginia's 10th
Washington's 3rd
Washington's 8th*
Wisconsin's 1st
Wisconsin's 6th
Wisconsin's 7th*
Wisconsin's 8th

So can they do it? Well, if the GOP listens to it's base, I think yes. The GOP has a field full of nutjobs, has-beens, and never will-bes so far running for President, and little exciting to offer. IF the President plays his cards right, takes a page from the Clinton 1995 playbook, and plays right, yes.

Blame Lieberman?

Since he's not likely to run as a Democrat, if he runs in 2012 for re-election, I'm totally fine with us pointing at Joe Lieberman and blaming him for a part in this year's defeat. Ezra Klein just does that, albeit I'm going to have to caveat my support for his statement after the jump.
Late in the negotiations over the public option, a group of five conservative Democrats and five more-liberal Democrats seemed near to an unexpectedly smart compromise: Allow adults over 55 to buy into Medicare. This idea had a couple of different virtues: For one, it opened an effective and cheap program up to a group of Americans who often have the most trouble finding affordable insurance. For another, the Congressional Budget Office has said this policy would improve Medicare's finances by bringing healthier, younger applicants into the risk pool. Oh, and it's wildly popular with liberals, who want to see Medicare offered as an option to more people, and since Medicare is already up and running, it could've been implemented rapidly.

But Lieberman killed it. It was never really clear why. He'd been invited to the meetings where the compromise was developed, but he'd skipped them. He'd supported the idea when he ran for president with Al Gore, and he'd reaffirmed that support three months prior to its emergence in the health-care debate during an interview with the editorial board of the Connecticut Post. But now that it was on the table, he seemed to be groping for reasons to oppose it. About the best he managed was that it was "duplicative," which was about as nonsensical a position as could be imagined. Nevertheless, he swore to filibuster the bill if the buy-in option was added. The proposal was duly removed.

It's easy to say that this made for worse policy. Medicare buy-in was a smart, helpful idea that should've been included in the legislation. It's harder to say whether it had a defined political cost in the election: Liberals would've been a lot happier if they'd managed to add this to the law, and maybe more of them would've turned out to vote. Seniors might've been pleased to see Medicare's finances improved, and many of the people who would've been helped by the new rule would've been, well, their children. The law could've begun delivering benefits earlier, and maybe that would've helped its popularity. Polls of doctors and the public have repeatedly shown broad support for making Medicare available to more Americans.

I couldn't agree more. Lieberman is an egomaniacal hypocrite, and an embarrassment to the great people of Connecticut, who should be used to good representation in Congress by now. They should kick this bum out, ASAP. Let's not try to re-write history though. Back in 2008, Lieberman backed John McCain for President. Rather than kick him to the curb, Democrats welcomed him back with open arms, all in the name of bi-partisanship/kumbaya/whatever other crap they cited. They should have stripped him of his chairmanship and kicked him to the curb. Back during the health care debate,  President Obama chose to empower the moderates in the Senate, letting Max Baucus convene his "gang of 6" to come to a compromise, empowering all the Lieberman-ish forces in that chamber to slow this down, and ultimately allowing the August 2009 rush of crazies at town halls, which watered this down. My point is, it's fun to blame Lieberman, and right, but let's not pretend we didn't mess this up along the way.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In Case You Missed It...

Major League Baseball's free agency period is under way, and a really good list of available players is here. Watch not only the big names, but some of the interesting role players and guys looking for one more contract on this list. That's where some of the biggest steals every year happen.

Some More Notes On The Deficit Commission

"PostPartisan" blog from the Washington Post says the President is basically punting on today's deficit commission report from the co-chairs. They basically make the point that he didn't come out and endorse it in part or full, and kind of pushed off taking a side, which was effectively a slap at it.

The same blog later notes that the recommendations aren't really radical or bold, despite Beltway talk to the opposite. I think they are overwhelmingly right in this sense, and perhaps they are being more ambitious than anyone in Washington wants to be.

While I'm not a big fan of curbing benefits or raising the retirement age for Social Security, I generally agree with them that it's a debate worth having. The fact is, people live longer than they did at the time we set 65 as the age for Social Security, and more private retirement accounts exist now than at the program's outset. Hence, it's at least worth exploring whether or not most seniors need it as primary income, and if 65 is really the age where we want to stop most people from working. When life expectancy is for 20-25 more years after that, as opposed to 5, it's hard to say we've got it exactly right. With that said, we should first be exploring what taking off the cap on payroll taxes for Social Security (after roughly $107,000 of income you pay no more taxes into the program) would do for the program's solvency, and see what other changes we can put into law to help the program's revenue issues in the future.

:( She Won't Be In Leadership

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) will not be in Republican Leadership for the next Congress. You don't know how disappointed I am. Congresswoman Bachmann is certifiably nuts. She's got the uncensored stream of words coming from her mouth, and she would have made Congress more fun next term. With that said, she's still a leader in the Tea Party Caucus, and she'll find her way in front of microphones, so I can deal with it.

"Ryno" In Allentown?

The Phillies website says the Phillies may have an interest in hiring Ryne Sandberg to be the new manager of the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs, bringing the Hall of Famer to Allentown for the 2011 season. This would be a welcome jolt of good energy after a horrible season for the Pigs, and would help to keep interest in the club high in the Lehigh Valley. At the same time, I'm not going to get too worked up about a manager right now, as this doesn't mean the product on the field is going to be real good yet. Even so, hire him! He had the Iowa Cubs 20 games over .500 this season.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words....

More On This Later, But Bush's Book Is About To Come Out