Monday, October 31, 2011

The Population Bubble

Stephen Hawking once told Larry King "My biggest worry is population growth. If it continues at the current rate, we will be standing shoulder to shoulder by 2600." It's a very colorful description, one whose claustrophobia makes a distant future of 600 years feel all the more immediate. It was also 11 years and a billion people ago and uttered at a time when the human population had doubled in just 40 years.

Since the world's 7 billionth child is apparently to be born today, there is a deluge of Malthusian dead horse-beating. Malthus was actually a far more interesting thinker than most people give him credit for being. His tale has been told countless times in science fiction during the last 150 years, and in some ways his theories were the beginning of speculative fiction and dystopian near futures. If you've every nerded out to books by William Gibson, PD James, HG Wells, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Ray Bradbury, Phillip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein, Anthony Burgess, Franz Kafka, Kurt Vonnegut, William Golding or Stephen King -- all are direct decedents of Thomas Malthus. (For a more nuanced appreciation of Malthus work, listen to this interview.)

But that still doesn't excuse the fact that Malthus missed the mark. Most people like to criticize him for underestimating food production and the ability of technology to increase the productivity of agriculture, but Malthus may have also been wrong about the human species' capacity to continue to reproduce exponentially:

What demographers call the Total Fertility Rate is the average number of live births per woman over her lifetime. In the long run, a population is said to be stable if the TFR is at the replacement rate, which is a little above 2.3 for the world as a whole, and somewhat lower, at 2.1, for developed countries, reflecting their lower infant-mortality rates.

The TFR for most developed countries now stands well below replacement levels. The OECD average is at around 1.74, but some countries, including Germany and Japan, produce less than 1.4 children per woman. However, the biggest TFR declines in recent years have been in developing countries. The TFR in China and India was 6.1 and 5.9, respectively, in 1950. It now stands at 1.8 in China, owing to the authorities’ aggressive one-child policy, while rapid urbanization and changing social attitudes have brought down India’s TFR to 2.6.
This is absolutely fascinating. All these years we've been bracing ourselves for an over-populated Earth with scarce natural resources when, in fact, the real scare resource might soon be humanity itself.

Much of this decline in birth rate will probably be attributed to technological improvements that enhance quality of life, which was essentially the same principle that doomed Malthus' hypothesis with regard to agriculture. But the ability for humanity to suddenly collectively curb its growth could also be a part of some shared evolutionary social psychology -- an aggregate that would include variables like attitudes on child-birth, government policies, enhanced medical science, etc. -- that encourages us to shoot for some kind of population sweet spot that allows for both individual well-being and the ongoing propagation of the species.

That's a profound concept that would have immense implications on our attitudes about everything from sex, marriage and child birth to religion, immigration, national identity, labor and public health policy:
[T]he labor force has peaked or is close to peaking in most major economies. Germany, Japan, and Russia already have declining workforces. The United States is one of a handful of advanced countries with a growing workforce, owing to its relative openness to immigration. But this may change as the source countries become richer and undergo rapid declines in birth rates. Thus, many developed countries will have to consider how to keep people working productively well into their seventies.

India, the only large economy whose workforce will grow in sufficient scale over the next three decades, may partly balance the declines expected in other major economies. But, with birth rates declining there, too, current trends suggest that its population will probably stabilize at 1.55 billion in the early 2050’s, a full decade ahead of – and 170 million people below – the UN’s forecast.

Given this, it is likely that world population will peak at nine billion in the 2050’s, a half-century sooner than generally anticipated, followed a sharp decline. One could argue that this is a good thing, in view of the planet’s limited carrying capacity. But, when demographic dynamics turn, the world will have to confront a different set of problems.
That would mean our policy-makers and dystopian science fiction novelists would have to completely re-orientate their focus in the coming decades and examine a world with a shrinking population instead of an exploding one -- more Children of Men and less Soylent Green. Oddly enough, there's a tinge of Malthusian pessimism to that proposition.

How that future looks to individuals is probably little more than a cultural Rorschach test, but for the sake of leaving the reader with something provocative, let me just suggest that a future wherein the human population has plateaued or is declining is a very bad one for conservatives. If people need to live longer, health policy becomes collective issue, likely through some national health care program. If workers need to stay employed longer in life, there will likely be laws limiting the work week and provide ample vacation time during the year. (Conversely, employers will justifiably expect more productive work days.) When unemployment is low, unions suddenly have more bargaining power. Public education become critical because it would likely occur twice in many people's lives: first as a child, then again in middle age as blue collar workers transition into jobs that don't require strain on their bodies. Immigration is open and encouraged.

It's a world where individuals don't necessarily claw their ways above the unwashed masses, but one where society as a whole must care for each individual. That's not always a good thing. Devoting too much time and energy to sustaining a population means there are fewer resources left over for the development of technology and less competition to push innovation. That's how societies and their qualities of life stagnate.

So who wins in the end? Probably nobody. There's a reason why human beings look into the future and tend to see see doom and gloom. I've always thought this phenomenon was somehow connected to old people's innate hatred of all things new and that we somehow can't get over a subconscious imperative to include our own selves in any future we ponder -- a version of ourselves that is by necessity frail and weak and decaying. It seems only reasonable that that reality should influence our outlook on the rest of the world and make it a very scary place to consider.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Well, Who didn't See this Coming?

This was only a matter of time:
During Herman Cain’s tenure as the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, at least two female employees complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior by Cain, ultimately leaving their jobs at the trade group, multiple sources confirm to POLITICO.

The women complained of sexually suggestive behavior by Cain that made them angry and uncomfortable, the sources said, and they signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them financial payouts to leave the association. The agreements also included language that bars the women from talking about their departures.
Make no mistake about this one: this wasn't a news outlet doing due diligence, this was an opposition research leak. Politico says they've been working on the story for 10 days now, which is right around the time Cain cemented himself in the top tier of a number of polls. The awesome question now is who dropped the dime?

Was it Perry, who has the resources to fund a top-notch oppo research team and who wants to steal from Evangelical Iowans that may have converted to Cain following the Texas governor's disappointing roll out? Was it Romney, who seems just a little too blase about his Iowa campaign? Was Gingrich jealous that Cain's book tour was doing better than his own? Was it Ron Paul, whose campaign came out with a suspiciously rapid press release vowing to take the high road on the matter? Was it Colonel Mustard in the library with the candle stick?

My money's on Team Perry precisely for the reasons stated above.

Anyway, we here at The Chief started to suspect Cain may have a few skeleton's in his closet when noticed a couple of weeks ago that we've never seen his wife or children out on the campaign trail. If you're running for President, you're family has to be on board, front and center (the Huntsman girls know the drill). Keeping your wife on the sidelines is bad form, just ask Judith Dean. We weren't quite sure if that meant that Cain kept women on the side or just believed his wife's place was in the kitchen or, most likely, that his campaign was such an amateur operation that they simply didn't know how to incorporate her into the program. When we read this article in the Times that essentially accused him of being a dick to subordinates, well, we probably should have put two and two together.

This is not something that will go away quietly. It's way too reminiscent of the Clearance Thomas confirmation hearings -- a black conservative and accusations of sexual harassment -- and who wouldn't want to rehash that shit show?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Reason We all Watch College Gameday

Take a bow, good sign-maker. Take a bow.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Disquieting Symbolism of Allowing Guns in the Capitol

Let's just get the perfunctory caveats out of the way first: We here at The Chief are aggressively ambivalent about concealed carry. Ultimately, we find the hand-wringing on the left about the potential dangers of the policy to be just as over-stated as the right's arguments that try to justify the measure on public safety or philosophical grounds. At the end of the day we think there are far more important matters that will directly effect far more people in Wisconsin that legislators should be working on.

This, however, worries us:
The public will be able to carry guns into most parts of the state Capitol, under a policy being developed by Gov. Scott Walker.

Lawmakers are developing their own policies that would allow individual lawmakers to decide whether to allow guns into their offices.

Under rules planned for one chamber, guns would be allowed on the Assembly floor and in the Assembly viewing galleries, said sources who have been briefed on the plans. That would mean the public could bring guns into the viewing galleries but would still have to adhere to other existing rules, including one that bars the use of still cameras and video cameras.
Allowing guns into a place where men and women meet to discuss the direction of the state is essentially an abdication of the promise of democracy. It says that the peaceful exchange of ideas cannot occur without the threat of violence from the very people we send to exchange those ideas. It's a capitulation of the notion that we can all act like human beings endowed with logical faculties and not animals butting heads to determine the leader of the herd. It's an admission that we really are not all that far removed from the "might makes right" mentality that led to countless duels, jousts and the occasional Thunderdome death match.

In other words, it's an enormous step backwards.

There is no question that there's a certain degree of security risk to legislators, but when they are in session and conducting business on the Assembly floor they are protected by strict rules that govern who can access the floor, decorum in the viewing areas and, most importantly, an armed security detail with full law enforcement powers in the Capitol Police.

There is no legitimate reason to carry a gun onto the Assembly floor. At best, the symbolism of the act says "I don't trust my colleagues to even regard my personal well-being as their own." At worst, it's an act of intimidation. It's an act that cannot say "I will protect my colleagues in the event of danger" because there already is an armed force -- the Capitol Police -- designated for that job. If legislators are so worried about their safety from visitors to the Assembly chambers, then they should consider closing the viewing areas and providing guests to the Capitol with the closed circuit feed of events on Wisconsin Eye.

This shouldn't be a partisan issue. It's one that should reflect the larger view we as a state consider to be the the goals of Democracy; namely, the development of the rule of law through peaceful discourse. One of the reasons the legislature holds sessions in ornate and gilded chambers is to remind members and visitors alike that the proceedings are the very highest form of human social interaction possible -- that laws are made using reason and debate and not under the threat, concealed or open, of intimidation.

Now is probably a good time to note that the whole point of concealed carry is rendered moot in a place like the Assembly floor, where a confined physical space makes it difficult to hide a firearm for a long period of time. Also, there's a good chance that one newspaper or another will check public records to determine who has applied/received a license. Outside the Capitol, where even most constituents are likely to have a hard time identifying their elected officials, it's a different story; but these rules are being made about a specific work place environment.

Concealed weapons in the rest of the Capitol is another matter altogether, one that is complicated by a variety of nuances that are not easily reconciled. For example: if concealed carry makes everyone safer by making firearms possession universally ambiguous, how do offices that advertise a "no guns allowed" policy, which some will do for political reasons, retain their protection from those that don't? The Capitol should be a place where no one is afraid to communicate their ideas or those of their constituents, but in this instance the office that puts a sign in it's window becomes less safe than one that invites (or more likely celebrates) carrying visitors.

There is also the issue of how visiting constituents might be intimidated when soliciting their legislators, who are already very powerful people even without the possibility that they might also be packing heat during a meeting. These tend to be very private meetings behind closed doors, where body language is scrutinized obsessively and frequently misinterpreted and where a dissenting visitor's account of potential intimidation will almost certainly not stand up to a legislator's insistence that any sudden moves he or she made during the discussion were not intended to be seen as reaching for his or her revolver.

It will not surprise me that no one considers the typical constituent engaging in the already intimidating task of appealing to a legislator when thinking about concealed carry rules in the Capitol. Putting more distance between legislator and constituent then there already is should not be seen a move in the right direction. This is a problem that will only be exasperated by the following prediction: by January 1, 2013 -- a little over a year after concealed carry goes into place -- there will be considerably more concealed carry permits among legislators than there will be permits issued to the general population on a per capita basis. The only question will be how large the multiplier will be.

All in all, the fact fact that we have to devote all this time and effort to this discussion is absurd when there are already extensive public safety measures in place at the Capitol that could be easily enhanced for the benefit of everyone. The rules, as they are described above by the MJS, create a situation where where some offices enjoy enjoy more power and safety than others, when through minimal sacrifice on their part, every office could enjoy the exact same degree of safety and power (with respect to carrying firearms).

This speaks to a larger issue: the fact that conservative policies are increasingly degrading the community by fetishizing the individual. It's not a good idea to allow concealed firearms into the Capitol. Any public safety expert will tell you as much and then give you dozens of better alternatives, but because conservatives say it can happen, well, then by golly, it must ... regardless of practical consequences. This inequality among legislators is just another example of policies that have promoted vast gulfs of inequity between all kinds of people over the last 30 years.

One of the great things about America is that it's historically been a place where individuals not only have the freedom to achieve, but also the tools to do so at their disposal thanks to collective effort among all Americans. That's how national identities are made and large concepts like the American Dream are fostered. If anything, this "every man for himself" philosophy that leaves major matters like personal security up to each individual, regardless of whether that person can fend for himself or not, is what ultimately rips any community apart and this has become the guiding principle of one of the two major political parties in this country.

That's not healthy for any democracy. In the end, we doubt concealed carry in the Capitol will ever become a serious issue. To the best of our knowledge, there has been only one instance of gun violence in a state capitol building (albeit an incident so infamous that it's stunning no one seems to have brought it up during the "debate" over the matter). Statistically speaking, it's far more likely that someone with a concealed carry permit will accidentally discharge their weapon while visiting the Capitol. But if someone should ever be injured by a firearm in the Capitol, it will be difficult for conceal carry advocates to argue that the victim's sacrifice is merely the cost we all must collectively pay for freedom.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Paul Ryan kicks off the GOP Vice Presidential Nomination Campaign Season

Just in case you were wondering what this is all about:

Ryan accused Obama of using “class-based rhetoric” in his re-election campaign. Obama’s tactics, he said, make “America weaker, not stronger.”
“Instead of appealing to the hope and optimism that were the hallmarks of his first campaign, he has launched his second campaign by preying on the emotions of fear, envy, and resentment,” Ryan said.
Translation: Why, yes, I happen to be available to run for Vice President next fall.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Paul Ryan vs. Vermont (the Winner gets to Craft America's 21st Century Health Care Policy)

I was going to let Paul Ryan's big health care speech at the Hoover Institute pass without further comment, but his comments about Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan made me want to revisit the talk.

One thing that is important to keep in mind is that Ryan always approaches health care reform from a budgetary perspective. There's usually very little consideration paid to details like public health and the economic consequences thereof. That's not necessarily a bad thing since there are many aspects to the issue that need attention, but this method of problem solving has a tendency to cause a new problem for every old one that gets "solved." For example, what happens to economic productivity when tens of thousands of old people are forced to move back in with their children to be cared for in their twilight years because the bulk of their fixed income is devoted to treating a pre-existing condition that no private insurer will cover? That's an important question, but one Ryan never really anticipates during his thought experiments.

As we've noted in the past, Ryan knows a good buzzword or catch phrase when he sees one. In the Hoover speech Ryan promotes a concept he calls "patient-centered health care reform" without ever really defining what that exactly means. To be sure, he elaborates on the concept, but never really fleshes it out satisfactorily. This is no small matter since it appears to be the goal his plan aspires to reach.

Regardless, Ryan seems to think that this goal is within reach. The speech is divided into three segments. In the first, Ryan provides us with his assessment of the current political conditions that will make his reform possible. In the second, he provides the details of his plan for reform. Ryan uses the final part as a sort of pep talk to his audience. Obviously, it's the second part that's the most interesting and the one we're going to focus on.

The principles of Ryan's plan seem to be conveniently summed up in two words: choice and competition. In the speech's preamble he summarizes his proposed reforms by saying:
Thanks to the tireless work of health-policy scholars here at Hoover and elsewhere, we know what works and what doesn’t. Simply put, badly designed government policies are to blame for much of what is wrong with health care today, and the solution is clear: We need to transition from the open-ended, defined-benefit approach of the past… to market-oriented, defined-contribution reforms that promote choice and competition.
Ryan's assumption that Government lies at the core of rising medical costs is dubious. Health care costs have exploded since 2000 and now far outpace inflation or wages:

If Government was the problem, they would have begun exploded shortly after Uncle Sam got into the insurance business in the 1960s, but that's not exactly what happened. Medical costs kept pace with the consumer price index until about 1980 then only really began to diverge in the early 1990s:

So what Ryan is essentially say is that it took doctors about 25 years before they finally figured out how to gouge Uncle Sam. Something tells me that with all those advanced degrees it wouldn't have taken so long. Neverthless, Ryan attributes this disparity to Medicare:
In Medicare, the government reimburses all providers of care according to a one-size-fits-all formula, even if the quality of the care they provide is poor and the cost is high. This top-down delivery system exacerbates waste, because none of the primary stakeholders has a strong incentive to deliver the best-quality care for the lowest cost.

Using Ryan's reasoning, private health care insurance should remain stable, or even decline, since there is no government interference and all three stake-holders are directly involved in the decision-making that goes into a patient's care, but even private insurance premiums have sky-rocketed:

This shouldn't be happening in Ryan's world. But it is. Was there some kind of law passed in the late 1990s that granted the government massive intrusive powers into the health care industry. Nope. (But there is an argument to be made attributing the ongoing increase in costs during the early 2000s to the Medicare Part D bill, which Ryan voted for.)

The conundrum posed by the cost of health is that while it is not only a problem, but also one of the great human success stories of the 20th century. Medicine currently is capable of doing things that were unimaginable just decade ago and while that's great for our overall quality of life, it doesn't come cheap. The expensive role of technology in modern medicine is a huge factor in escalating costs. Along the same line are the research and development costs that eventually get built into the cost of a treatment. For uncommon ailments, these costs can be considerable. And that's not a small issue because sick people are living longer thanks to some very expensive treatments. These are good development, but expensive ones.

Medicare is certainly going to be a burdensome expense, but it's just a small part of the problem compared to the projected costs of all health care costs in the near future:

So Ryan's diagnosis ignores the fundamental causes that result in more expensive care. It should be surprising that his proposed solutions do the same.
The solution in each of these areas is to move away from defined-benefit models and toward defined-contribution systems. Under a reformed approach, the government would make a defined contribution to the health-care security of every American, rather than continue to offer open-ended, well-intentioned, but ultimately empty promises.
This is another way of saying vouchers. This has been discussed elsewhere at great length.There are inherent problems with a voucher plan that replaced Medicare with partially subsidized private insurance plans. The most obvious is the likely unwillingness of private insurers to take on elderly customers, many of whom will likely have previously diagnosed conditions.

The growth of these defined contributions should be capped, to reduce the inefficiencies that have led health-care costs to spiral out of control. But they should be adjustable so that more help goes to the poor and the sick, while less financial support goes to those who are fortunate enough to need it the least.

That sounds nice, but all Ryan's plan does is move a pile of money from one hand to another without addressing the inherent costs that make health care so expensive.

Ryan then goes on to contradict himself when discussing the high cost of private insurance, which he blames on taxes:
[O]ur current tax code provides additional fuel for runway health care inflation. Under current law, employer-sponsored health insurance plans are entirely exempt from taxation, regardless of how much an individual contributes to their policy.

This tilts the compensation scale toward benefits, which are tax-free, and away from higher wages, which are taxable. It also provides ways for high-income earners to artificially reduce their tax-able income by purchasing high-cost health coverage – which in turn can fuel the overuse of health services.

So overuse of health services isn't just a problem that results from Medicare, but happens with private insurance as well. Blaming this phenomenon on taxes strains credulity. It's the supply-sider equivalent of the equant.

The most frustrating thing about this brief detour into reality is that Ryan actually touches on the fundamental problem with health care today: the incentive structure for health care providers is out of whack. Health care providers have every reason to run expensive, unnecessary tests when they charge by the x-ray and not the complete treatment.  That would put the onus on the private sector to change, though -- a concept abhorrent to Ryan's Randian worldview.

The problem with just about anything Paul Ryan policy is that it evolves from an Utopian ideology and not a critical look at the circumstances as they actually exist. Ryan frequently peppers his speech with the phrase "cost-effective," but if this was actually a goal it would be nearly impossible to not look at other countries that provide comparable universal health care at a significantly reduced cost. Ryan wants a world in which the free market actually works efficiently and rationally and  maybe even morally ... and if that world doesn't exist, he'll just have to create it.

Part of the Ryan mystique has resulted from a confusion between substantive ideas and effective marketing. Ryan never misses a chance to supply his plans with web sites, YouTube videos, cable interviews or roll-outs at think tanks and that's a large part of the reason why he enjoys such a highfalutin reputation among his colleagues. The Hoover speech is remarkably free of data and heavy on ideology -- that's never a good sign -- and it wouldn't be the first time Ryan has tried to mold a world to his own specifications.

Unlike Ryan's health care reform, which is still very theoretical and will likely never leave Conference Room C of the Hoover Institute, there is a more radical (by American standards, at any rate), though much less publicized, plan that will actually begin covering patients:
Vermont governor Peter Shumlin [has] signed into law a plan meant to transform the private-run health insurance industry into a the nation's first government-funded, government-run health care system that offers a uniform benefit package to every eligible resident. The first phase of the law will extend coverage to all 620,000 Vermonters through the option to participate in the state health benefits exchange called Green Mountain Care, which Reuters reports, "will set reimbursement rates for health care providers and streamline administration into a single, unified system." Per a federal mandate (read: Obamacare) the exchange will offer coverage from private insurers as well as state-sponsored and multi-state plans. The plan also calls for tax credits to make coverage affordable for low-income residents.
This is actually happening. Slowly, but it's happening. The American health care system is becoming far too expensive to be feasible for much longer and countries that have public health care coverage are far more adept at reigning in costs:

As we mentioned earlier Ryan devotes a lot of his speech to surveying the political landscape and discovering that it's a good foundation on which to build. Not once does he mention Vermont. In five or ten years time Vermont will begin to feel the effects of its experiment. If the results are positive, other states will might follow suit (think Minnesota or Oregon). Ryan's plan is all or nothing, which is usually how plans described as being "bold" work, and the closer you look at it the easier it is to see that there's not much there to begin with.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

If Paul Ryan takes Herman Cain's 9-9-9 Plan Seriously, should we keep taking Paul Ryan Seriously?

It's entirely possibly that there has never been a more ridiculed and completely dismissed domestic policy proposal than Herman Cain's 9-9-9 Tax Plan. Democrats hate it. Conservatives hate it. Even Grover Norquist hates it. Bruce Bartlett says of the plan:
At a minimum, the Cain plan is a distributional monstrosity. The poor would pay more while the rich would have their taxes cut, with no guarantee that economic growth will increase and good reason to believe that the budget deficit will increase.

Even allowing for the poorly thought through promises routinely made on the campaign trail, Mr. Cain’s tax plan stands out as exceptionally ill conceived.
Conservatives are also quick to point out that the plan increases the tax burden on the middle class:
If you have a family of four with an income of just under $50,000, they could end up paying more under the Cain plan. Currently, they are taxed around $3,850 in income tax. Under Cain’s plan, they would be taxed at 9 percent or pay $4,500.

That’s $650 more.

Although the family would save almost $4,000 in Social Security taxes, it would have to give up the child tax credit worth the same amount. Furthermore, it would pay an additional national sales tax of 9 percent on everything purchased, including groceries and clothes, which totals about $2,000.

That means under the Cain plan that family could end up paying $2,725 more.
The poor get it even worse.

Complicating matters further is where the plan came from. Was it the brainchild of a quiet wealth manager from Cleveland? Is it simply a pizza gimmick writ large on a national economy? The product of hours of playing SimCity? It can't be just a political stunt, as Ezra Klein notes:
This plan wouldn’t work. Not as policy and, as I expect Cain will soon find out, not as politics. Moving to an 18 percent consumption tax is, among other things, very bad for older voters, who make up a substantial portion of the Tea Party base. Jacking up taxes on the poor and the middle class even as you sharply reduce them on the rich and completely eliminate them on overseas income for corporations isn’t popular among anyone in the political system who isn’t specifically paid by the Club for Growth.
The subtext of nearly every criticism of the plan, no matter from which ideological quarter it originates, is that Cain and Co. built their tentpole piece of domestic policy around a marketing strategy without ever really giving much consideration to the, you know, consequences. It's nearly impossible to see how this plan evolved otherwise.

But now that every one's lining up to take a whack at Cain's policy pinata, who should come to the rescue but ... Paul Ryan?
House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan says he “loves” presidential candidate Herman Cain’s signature “9-9-9″ tax plan.
Ryan told The Daily Caller in an exclusive interview that Cain’s plan is a good starting point for debate, and shows the GOP presidential campaign season has entered into a more advanced stage where ideas — not just personalities — have come to the forefront.

“We need more bold ideas like this because it is specific and credible,” Ryan said. “I’m more of a flat-tax kind of a guy.”

The budget chairman went on to say that ideas like Cain’s plan could help shape the debate over tax reform moving into 2013.

“It’s great to see such bold ideas,” Ryan told TheDC.
To be fair, Ryan isn't exactly "endorsing" the plan, as Cain's campaign manager later goes on to claim in the article. Ryan's praise seems to be focused on the "boldness" of the plan, details be damned. But why even touch something upon which so much scorn is being heaped? Even the folks who essentially support the principles of the plan are quick to criticize the particulars. Most people aren't taking it very seriously. How unserious is this plan? Here's an example:
Mr. Cain said on CNBC his plan was "not regressive" in its impact on lower-income workers, primarily because it would eliminate their payroll taxes. And speaking to reporters in Concord, Mr. Cain said that exempting used goods from the federal sales tax would ease its effect on poor people.
This is asinine. Policies that promote growth should focus on creating jobs for the poor, not supplying them with cheaper hand-me-downs. Cain's plan doesn't seem comprehend this concept.

So why on Earth is Paul Ryan giving this idea the time of day?

It's a good question. Arthur Laffer seems to dig the plan too, so maybe it's some act of supply-side solidarity, but this does little to legitimize what is a patently ridiculous tax policy. One would imagine that support for this kind of shallow proposal would call Ryan's judgment into question, especially when it comes to his "Roadmap" budget. But I don't imagine that happening any time soon.

For a thorough examination of the absurdity of the 9-9-9 Plan, check out Edward Kleinbard’s working paper:

2011-10-10 Kleinbard Analysis of Cain's Tax Plan

Sunday, October 9, 2011

If You Read Only One Al Davis Obit this Weekend...

Make sure it's this one.

The only things missing is the just how ahead of the curve Davis was on many football-related issues, including some of his own creation ... namely, the Lane Kiffin situation.

You might remember Davis' rambling press conference, one of the most memorable in football history in my estimation, wherein the Raiders' owner sacked his wunkerkind head coach only four games into his second season with a ferocity that appeared bitter, vengeful, spiteful and/or megalomaniacal. At the time, Davis was almost universally panned for the spectacle. But the the whole thing was actually Al-being-Al, and sticking up for the people who were loyal to him:

[I]t was well-documented that their relationship disintegrated when Kiffin attempted to fire defensive coordinator Rob Ryan after the 2007 season. A source said Kiffin suggested to Davis that the owner had reneged on an agreement that the coach would have control over his own staff. Shortly thereafter, Davis sent a letter of resignation for Kiffin to sign, sources said. Kiffin declined.

Davis denied a report that Kiffin was sent a resignation letter in the past but refused to sign it. The owner said that Kiffin was responsible for getting that false claim into the media. On Tuesday, Davis was asked if Kiffin was trying to get fired so that he would receive the remainder of his salary.

"I don't know what he was doing, but he got me to fire him," Davis said.
Kiffin's decision probably had little to do with Ryan's performance. He wanted to bring in Monty Kiffin, his father (and Ed Orgeron, a coach with ties to Monte), but Monte was working with Tampa Bay at the time. Recruiting Monte would have been coach tampering, something that is illegal in the NFL, but is probably a lot easier to do when family members are involved. Davis, not only wanted to play fair, but he also didn't believe Rob Ryan deserved to be fired, since if ever there was a coach meant to be on the Oakland sidelines, it's Rob Ryan (the current Defensive coordinator of the Cowboys and brother of Jet's head coach Rex) and tossing aside a coach in such a unsporting manner, even though it happens routinely when new head coaches take over, would not have to appealed to his sense of honor.

And that was the beauty of the man: he was a visionary, but also an anachronism. He was maverick, but one who lived by a strict code.

Kiffin, of course, landed on his feet with one of the desirable coaching gigs in college football, the University of Tennessee, where he proceeded to rack up precious few wine, a ton of NCAA violations, and the ire of the entire Volunteer State when he bolted for USC after just a single season. This was undoubtedly a bittersweet moment for Davis: he had been vindicated, but that vindication came as a result of his nemesis winning a job at an institution beloved by Davis:
Al is the one who must be in a trance right now. Either that, or he’s screaming into the air, to the rooftops, to anybody who will listen.

Because Al loves USC, above all other sporting entities except, of course, the Raiders.

(He has two former USC head coaches currently on his staff. Al was an assistant for three years in the late ’50s at ‘SC. Loves USC.)

Al loves USC almost as much as he hates Lane/Lance Kiffin. And yet, suddenly, shockingly, Kiffin is the King of USC, the last place and last job Al would’ve ever wanted Kiffin to land.
It's the kind of contradiction that made Davis such a fascinating character.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ron Johnson Teams up with a Wall Street CEO to Sell Himself Out in a Spectacular Act of Hypocrisy

Ron Johnson has nothing but contempt for the people he represents. There's really no other way to any other conclusion after reading Johnson's transparent fraud of an op-ed in Politico today. If you read the piece today and merely thought it was merely a vapid attempt to sell Johnson's maiden work of legislation, don't worry, on the surface it had all the depth of a puddle of spit -- but what it lacked in substance the essay made up for in a stunning ulterior motive.

It's a flagrant attempt to use the people of Wisconsin, and specifically the small business owners of the state, to shill for Wall Street only Johnson doesn't have the backbone to come out and say it. Every last voter in the Badger state should feel insulted by this pathetic attempt to pull a con job by someone who clearly thinks he's more clever than the voters who elected him.

A little background before we get started: During the 2010, Johnson provided the following exchange during an interview:
LIB: That tends to suggest an answer, but let’s just make it clear – what would your suggestions be toward fixing the crisis that we’re now in?

RJ: Well we absolutely have to reform Fannie and Freddie, first of all. And that, truthfully, I would be looking back to banking rules and regulations back since the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s in terms of things working. I would seriously take a look at these banks that are still termed “too big to fail,” and maybe we need to orderly break them up under anti-trust laws.
So last year Johnson was in favor of massive government intervention into financial institutions. Today he believes the banks should be left to their own devices. And who did he decide to team up with to co-author the essay that informed the world of his new policy position? None other than a former Wall Street CEO.

It's as complete a total disavowal of one's independence as you'll ever see.

Johnson's article today completely disavows this position. He doesn't just flip-flop, the act of political conservationism required to pull this requires an audacity level that should awe even the Romanian judge.

It's of paramount importance to keep in mind that Johnson is just the co-author of this piece. His partner in crime is a man named John Allison, who is a former chairman and CEO of BB&T. What's a BB&T, you ask? Good question. Here's how they describe themselves on their web site
BB&T Corporation, headquartered in Winston-Salem, N.C., is among the nation's top financial-holding companies with $159 billion in assets and market capitalization of $18.7 billion, as of June 30, 2011.  Its bank subsidiaries operate approximately 1,800 financial centers in the Carolinas, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee, Maryland, Florida, Alabama, Indiana, Texas and Washington, D.C.  Market share rankings in deposits: No. 1 in West Virginia; No. 3 in the Carolinas and Virginia; No. 4 in Kentucky; No. 5 in Alabama, Florida and Georgia; No. 6 in Tennessee; No. 7 in Maryland and Washington, D.C. (June 30, 2010 FDIC Deposits, SNL). 
So it's a massive regional bank in the South (you may have noticed that BB&T does not have a presence in Wisconsin), but that's only half of Allison's story. One of Allison's extracurricular activities includes Ayn Rand worship. From the New York Times:
Speaking at a recent convention in Boston to a group of like-minded business people and students, Mr. Allison tells a story: A boy is playing in a sandbox, only to have his truck taken by another child. A fight ensues, and the boy’s mother tells him to stop being selfish and to share.

“You learned in that sandbox at some really deep level that it’s bad to be selfish,” says Mr. Allison, adding that the mother has taught a horrible lesson. “To say man is bad because he is selfish is to say it’s bad because he’s alive.”

If Mr. Allison’s speech sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because it’s based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand, who celebrated the virtues of reason, self-interest and laissez-faire capitalism while maintaining that altruism is a destructive force. In Ms. Rand’s world, nothing is more heroic — and sexy — than a hard-working businessman free to pursue his wealth. And nothing is worse than a pesky bureaucrat trying to restrict business and redistribute wealth.
Freud would have a field day. Allison's Rand fetish extends, rather absurdly I might add, to funding Ayn Rand classes, studies and the distribution of her works at universities, which, in essence, is charitably giving to teach people how to be selfish. Unwrap that mindfuck if you can.

Allison is as zealous a "free market" evangelist as they come, so much so that he can't even conceive how anything other than the government was responsible for the current economic crisis. I'd link to more examples, but there really is no shortage of Allison pontificating at libertarian mutual appreciation societies like the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Ayn Rand Center and other places online.

So in a time of unparalleled economic uncertainty on Main Street, Johnson runs to find his friends on Wall Street. Keep that in mind because every last line of this essay aims to serve Johnson's masters in lower Manhattan, not Wisconsin.

Johnson/Allison start off their their piece with a little joke that you will be forgiven for missing upon a cursory reading:
Most people go into business because they want to make the world better by building something — and, of course, to make money for themselves and the people working with them.
Ha ha. Get it? Money, of course, always plays second fiddle to the altruistic impulses of entrepreneurs everywhere. The winking and elbow-poking doesn't even need to be included in the stage directions of this monologue.
Yet business leaders today are routinely treated as guilty until proven innocent by the bureaucrats in our regulatory agencies.
This is an asinine statement, as we'll demonstrate using Johnson/Allison's own example below.
Our regulatory state strangles economic growth. Regulations bar many voluntary agreements and subject businessmen to constant micromanagement.
Here's Johnson/Allison's thesis: regulation is bad for business Judging by the vagueness of the statement, one assumes Johnson/Allison is referring to all businesses, and that's certainly what they want you to believe, but they're really only talking about the banking forthcoming banking regulations coming soon to house of finance near you courtesy of the Dodd-Frank Act.

Aside from being completely disingenuous, Johnson/Allison's thesis also suffers from two additional problems: 1.) there's really not very much empirical evidence to suggest this is true and b.) regulations tend to be very good for big businesses. Both of these points will be elaborated upon later.

Absent concrete evidence to support their claim, Johnson/Allison provide their readers with stray observations, like: 
At the federal level alone, business is subject to tens of thousands of regulations. The federal regulation code, which lists them, currently stands at 160,000 pages. Over the past 15 years, business has been hit with almost 60,000 new federal rules, to say nothing of state-level regulation. Compliance costs alone surpass $1.75 trillion annually, according to the Small Business Administration.
(It's actually called the Code of Federal Regulations, which tells you just how much interaction the authors have with federal regulations ... or the internet, for that matter.)

A quick note about this SBA study from Bruce Bartlett, one of Reagan's senior economists:
When pressed for data to support their argument that deregulation is a magic bullet that will turn the economy around, conservatives often point to a study commissioned by the Small Business Administration and published in September 2010. The study was performed by economists Nicole Crain and Mark Crain of Lafayette College. However, there are a number of problems with relying on this source.

For one thing, the analysis stops in 2008. To the extent that the SBA study tells us anything about the cost of regulation, it says that the Bush administration was extremely lax about reducing a burden that Republicans now say is the economy’s biggest problem. A Congressional Research Service study has also identified important methodological weaknesses in the SBA study that cast grave doubt on its validity. CRS noted that some of the sources used to calculate regulatory costs appear to have been misused or misinterpreted, some cost figures were cherry picked to provide the highest possible cost estimate, and many of the estimates are from studies done decades ago with little contemporary value.
So it's a dubious source ... and not the first time that Johnson has relied on one.

Later on, Johnson/Allison will  decry regulations as being "job killers," but it actually seems to sound like compliance is something of a growth industry. Regardless, the 160,000 page Code of Federal Regulations covers all federal regulations and only a fraction of it ever actually applies to a given business based on its industry. Johnson/Allison are guilty of shamelessly and vastly exaggerated the problem.
This explosion of new regulations dramatically reduces job creation. 
Or, not so much. Here's more from Bartlett:
Efforts to find specific regulations that are hampering business expansion and employment growth have not actually found any. While business groups based in Washington will quickly rattle off a list starting with the Affordable Care Act, surveys of actual businesses paint a different picture. When McClatchy newspapers interviewed a number of small business owners to see what regulations are holding them back, it couldn’t find any.

“None of the business owners complained about regulation in their particular industries, and most seemed to welcome it,” the McClatchy report found. Monthly surveys by the National Federation of Independent Business show that small business concerns about regulation are lower today than they were in the 1990s when the economy was booming.
Note that Johnson/Allison calls them "new regulations," which, again, refer to those prescribed in the Dodd-Frank Act. If you still aren't convinced of this, the authors are about to say so explicitly:
The more costly it is for businesses to meet regulatory demands, the fewer workers they can hire. When government ramps up regulations in unpredictable ways — see Obamacare, Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulations and the Environmental Protection Agency under Lisa Jackson — businesses are more likely to build cash reserves than they are to invest and hire.
Did you catch that? Blink and you missed it, but we've actually just arrived at the heart of this essay: "Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulations." Remember: John Allison is a former banker and banks aren't exactly high priorities for the EPA. Johnson/Allison talk about an "explosion of new regulations," which is shorthand for the Dood-Frank bill. That's really the only game in town in terms of newsworthy regulatory guidelines coming down the pipeline.
Small-business owners are asking why banks won’t make loans to help them expand and create jobs. The answer is simple: The banking regulators have radically tightened lending standards. Ask any community banker.
Why ask any community banker when you have the former CEO of a massive regional bank? The fact that Johnson is writing this with a multimillionaire and not, say, a small business owner from Oshkosh speaks volumes about whom he's working for.
Regulatory bureaucracies also stifle innovation, which is the key to economic growth but requires defying convention, experimenting, making mistakes and correcting them. That isn’t compatible with the regulatory state’s demand for obedience to mind-numbing rules. Half the challenge for innovators now is getting past the regulator. As a result, many avenues of exploration just aren’t pursued.
I always enjoy this line of thought: apparently their are brilliant innovators in the world that can invent mind-blowing new products, create awesome new services and, most importantly, solve problems that have plagued mankind from time immemorial, but can't seem to figure out the ancient riddle of the Health Inspector.
Perhaps the regulatory state’s toughest burden, however, is that it discourages our best entrepreneurs.
This chart suggests otherwise:

Productive individuals face a daily grind of trying to comply with an endless number of rules — often arcane, arbitrary and contradictory. By treating entrepreneurs as latent criminals, the regulatory state crushes the creative spirit — and wastes the energy and talents of the job producers and the prosperity producers.
Notice how the entire essay is very much a touchy-feely load of shit about a "productive spirit" and "discouragement" and "creativity," etc.? There isn't a single example of actual data included in Johnson/Allison's piece and the only numbers I see relate to the page lengths of various government documents. Maybe this sort of appeal to the reader's aspirations works on a rhetorical level, but it's shitty policy.
A recent series of studies by the Institute for Justice examined the morass of regulations strangling commerce in many U.S. cities.
What's the Institute for Justice? It's actually more of a law firm than an "institute," but one that eschews private clients to dabble in public affairs. Think of it more along the lines of an amicus brief factory that occasionally whips up a white paper or two.

It's also funded by the Koch Foundation.
In Los Angeles, for example, people who want to open a restaurant may spend months, even years, jumping through regulatory hoops before they’re able to serve their first customer. There are business licenses, zoning requirements, scores of permits and approvals and a seemingly endless number of taxes and fees.

All told, L.A. restaurateurs have to go through at least a dozen government agencies before opening their doors. The process is so complex, the city published a 147-page handbook to explain it.
Here's a list of all the restaurants in Los Angles County that suffered closures due to health code violations during a three month period this summer. It's enormous and includes restaurants like Burger King, Baskin Robbins, Boston Market, Denny's, Dominoes, Jack in the Box, KFC, McDonald's, Panda Express, Pizza Hut, Popeye's, Sonic, Starbuck's, and Subway -- all chains that should be health code compliance ninjas given their resources and experience (to say nothing of the more reliable revenue stream that comes with being a national chain).

Go ahead and see what each restaurant got cited for -- you won't eat out for a month. Now if the big boys can lapse from time to time and fail to find the initiative to keep a tidy shop, what do you think will happen in the really incompetent restaurateurs' kitchens?

One of the many reasons people go to fast food chains, like the ones listed above, is because they have an expectation of healthy and sanitation based on their ubiquity and financial success, but according to Johnson/Allison these "business leaders" are being "routinely treated as guilty until proven innocent by the bureaucrats in our regulatory agencies." It simply does not occur to the authors that the nature of their business may actually make their periodic guilt inevitable.
Would you be willing to go through that to start a business?
Thousands of people are willing to do just that if only they could acquire the money.
When America’s businessmen find themselves discouraged and dispirited, we all lose. We lose out on jobs, new products and a rising standard of living.

Building a business is hard work. As retired businessmen, we can attest to the long hours, sleepless nights, overloaded schedules, ongoing setbacks and other daunting challenges that go into creating a successful business.
This is probably the most interesting graph in the entire essay and the moment when Johnson/Allison interject themselves into the argument. But something's missing, and if you noticed a complete lack of relevant anecdotes from either Johnsons's or Allison's personal experience, you've hit the nail on the head.

The omission exists for several obvious reasons: talking about restaurateurs in LA makes the authors appear more like Everymen and less the millionaires they actually are. Both men have long had others take care of their regulatory issues for them. The example also makes regulations seem like the reach of government is long (literally spanning across the entire country!) and personal. Also, Allison's former life as and banking CEO isn't a very popular profession right now, while Johnson lived a pretty charmed life when he was just a plastics manufacturer from the sticks.

I bring this up because the federal government really can't do anything about the restaurateur from LA's regualtory burden -- those are mostly state and local laws. Johnson may not be able to stick up for Carlos and his Taco Truck on Venice Beach ... but he can do wonders for the former banking CEO who co-signed the byline.
To persevere, business men and women need the freedom to run their businesses by their own best judgment. They cannot function if they have to spend a quarter, a half or even more of their time taking orders from bureaucrats.
So which one is it? Do business folks spend 25%, 50% or even more of their time dealing with Uncle Sam? Johnson's colleague in the House, Sean Duffy, recently made the mistake of trying to assign hard numbers to compliance costs and fell flat on his face, which may have a lot to do with why Johnson plays coy here. Or possibly the numbers aren't that big and vary widely from industry to industry, but only seem to do the most harm to -- wait for it -- the banking sector.

Either way, by now we've identified the problem -- so what's the solution?
It’s time to stop the parade of new regulation until we can begin to roll it back. The new regulation moratorium bill is a good first step. It would block new regulations until unemployment falls below 7.8 percent — the rate when President Barack Obama took office.
Now would be a good time to remind you, once again, that this "parade of new regulation" is the Dodd-Frank Act.

The regulatory moratorium is legislation which Johnson has authored and what we've called in the past "a snotty, deeply cynical bill that is little more than a flaming bag of dogshit left on the White House front porch." This essay does nothing to convince us that we wrong to say as much. The 7.8% figure is arbitrary, not based on economics, and exists solely for political purposes, just like the rest of the legislation. It's a truly worthless waste of time and energy.

One of the reasons a regulatory moratorium will never happen, to say nothing of possibly work, is because big business actually loves regulations. It's counter-intuitive, but what Johnson/Allison might call "entrepreneurial innovation" Big Business calls "competition" and competition is bad for the bottom line. That's one of the reasons Title 21, Chapter 483 of the Code of Federal Regulations is as big as it is: larger long-term care providers are trying to squeeze out competition by making start-up nursing homes operate on the same playing field, even if they don't have the same resources. No one came to congress with a fresh new prospective on how to reform Nursing Home regulation, but HCR ManorCare sure as hell does and you can bet it includes regulations that would be vastly unfair to the Mom n' Pop Old Folks Home down the street from you.
There’s a lot of talk today about how to “stimulate” the economy. A free economy does not require “stimulation.” It is fueled by the passion and creativity of profit-seeking business leaders.

The problem is not lack of stimulus but the suffocating weight of government intervention. If we want to revive the economy, it’s time to liberate the victims of our regulatory state.
Vice Presidents of Regulatory Compliance of the world, UNITE!

So why all the fuss from Johnson over regulations? It's basically because that's all that's left. Here's Bruce Bartlett yet again:
Republicans have a problem. People are increasingly concerned about unemployment, but Republicans have nothing to offer them. The G.O.P. opposes additional government spending for jobs programs and, in fact, favors big cuts in spending that would be likely to lead to further layoffs at all levels of government.

Republicans favor tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, but these had no stimulative effect during the George W. Bush administration and there is no reason to believe that more of them will have any today. And the Republicans’ oft-stated concern for the deficit makes tax cuts a hard sell.

These constraints have led Republicans to embrace the idea that government regulation is the principal factor holding back employment. They assert that Barack Obama has unleashed a tidal wave of new regulations, which has created uncertainty among businesses and prevents them from investing and hiring.
No hard evidence is offered for this claim; it is simply asserted as self-evident and repeated endlessly throughout the conservative echo chamber.

The vast emptiness of Johnson/Allison's essay is certainly a testimony to that observation. Johnson's previously efforts to solve the deficit were embarrassing and clearly not going anywhere. His devotion to the anti-tax voodoo that has held the GOP hostage for the last 30 years shows signs of breaking. Strictly from a policy perspective, what's left after this cover is blown off this regulatory nonsense?

What makes this all worse is that Johnson actually supported breaking up banks that were "too big to fail," possibly the ultimate form of banking regulation, during his campaign during the 2010 campaign. Now he's skipping hand-in-hand with a bank CEO decrying any regulation whatsoever. It was this type of hypocrisy that Johnson claims inspired him to run for office in the first place.

Such sound and fury...

Monday, October 3, 2011

If all that Winning this Weekend didn't get Your Juices Flowing, then Sit Back and Appreciate just how Badly the Vikings Suck

After a sports weekend as serendipitous as this past one, the entire state of Wisconsin should be pounding its collective chest and waving a giant foam #1 finger around, but if all that winning didn't get you riled up, then perhaps a little Minnesota Vikings schadenfreude will get you over the hump.

The Vikes lost -- again -- to the Kansas City Chiefs in a battle to determine the worst team in the NFL on Sunday ... but earning that distinction just wasn't enough for the hapless Norsemen.

For those that only think about the Vikings when their necks are firmly situated under the cleats of the Packers' defensive linemen. Minnesota plays in the Metrodome, an awful monstrosity of a stadium that wore out its novelty and utility some time ago, which is really saying something since it's only 29 years old. So the Vikes say they need a new stadium and they're probably right. The problem is that Metrodome's other tenants -- the University of Minnesota football team and Minnesota Twins -- recently acquired their own tax-payer funded team specific stadiums which has given voters in Minnesota a case of stadium fatigue.

So every game the Vikings lose decreases the chances that they get their new stadium and increases the odds of a move to LA. It's a delicate PR balancing act that requires skill and luck and tenaciousness and all sorts of other admirable qualities that were in short supply on Sunday.

Not only did the Vikes lose ... for the forth time in four games this season ... to a really bad Chiefs team ... by less than a touchdown ... but then wide receiver Bernard Barrian had to go do this:

Berrian criticized Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, on Twitter for questioning Berrian's characterization of today's game.

"If you want to follow a hilarious twitter account, try @B_Twice (Bernard Berrian) who says that he's open a lot and should get the ball more," Kriesel wrote on Twitter.

Berrian quickly took issue with Kriesel.

"Anytime u wanna watch the film with me. Not just one game but all of them," Berrian wrote to Kriesel. "and if not sit down n shut up!!" Berrian wrote in another tweet.

Kriesel, who lost both of his legs while serving in Iraq, is one of a handful of state lawmakers who have publicly advocated for a new stadium for the Vikings. He is also a co-author to the Vikings stadium bill. The Vikings have also posted an interview with Kriesel discussing the stadium efforts on the team's homepage. 
I can't imagine that's going to play well.

Making matters even worse, Vikings fans are turning on another Twin Cities institution: the artist currently known as Prince but formerly known as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, who, before that, was also called Prince:

The Minnesota Vikings have won only six games since Prince released “Purple and Gold” in the weeks leading up to the NFC Championship game. After 12 men on the field, a full 2010 season and four disappointing weeks to start 2011...has Minneapolis' own icon brought bad luck to the Vikings?
[One can only hope. -- ed.]
“I saw the future,” Prince told former FOX 9 anchor Robyne Robinson, who was given an exclusive advance copy of "Purple and Gold" on Jan. 21, 2010. The song resembled a New Orleans funeral march – a jab at the eventual Super Bowl champion Saints.

So was “Purple and Gold” an unintended funeral dirge for the Vikings? Even the opening line of the song – “the veil of the sky draws open” could be thrown against the collapse of the Metrodome roof that displaced an already beaten and battered Vikings team last season.
Prince, mad prophet of Minnesotan doom. This all really just too much fun.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

If Roy Blunt wants to be Vice Chair of the Republican Caucus he should just Email this Blog Post to his Colleagues in the Senate

This one, right here:
Asked by WisPolitics if he deplored partisanship as much as he said he did during his campaign last fall, Johnson said, "It's sad. I don't see it on the other side. When you have a president that needs to lead, and he's not leading ... so again, in order to work on a bipartisan basis, you need somebody that's negotiating in good faith, that's working in good faith, and currently we don't have that with this president."

Johnson also told the audience that "it's really pretty remarkable how President Obama has pretty well taken over and continued the policies of the Bush administration."

That doesn't mean the freshman Republican senator agrees with Obama on anything.

"We're not getting leadership out of President Obama," he said.

It's fairly obvious that Johnson either doesn't quite understand the differences between Bush policies and Obama policies or doesn't have the slightest idea how to communicate those differences in an effective manner. That's usually a prerequisite for someone in a leadership position.

Then again, maybe this sort of inarticulate gibberish is exactly what the GOP is looking for.

We've pointed out a few times that Johnson seems to specialize in snidely dismissing Senate procedure with a sarcasm and at least someone in DC has also noticed:
“Johnson is always a big critic of how things are being run, but he has yet to show that he understands how to get things done in Congress,” a senior Republican Senate aide said. “Just being a vocal critic may not be enough of a selling point to a caucus that wants to see real results on some very tough issues.”
Again, I'm not sure that's necessarily a deal-breaker in today's Republican party.