Saturday, May 03, 2003


One of the most interesting characteristics of the SARS coronavirus is the fact that it is based upon ribonucleic acid (RNA), rather than deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) (it shares that characteristic with HIV). When RNA is copied, errors in the copying process occur with greater frequency than when DNA is replicated. This is due both to worse chemical stability of RNA and to a lack of error-correction mechanisms which DNA enjoys). This means that RNA-based viruses mutate thousands of times faster than those based upon DNA -- obviously, a desirable characteristic in a world where your one great asset is the ability to rapidly make billions of throwaway copies of yourself. Some of those mutations are bound to make the virus more deadly and easier to spread.

Thus, what we're seeing right now isn't unexpected, but it is worrisome:

Scientists at the Chinese University of Hong Kong say they analyzed the genetic sequences of virus samples taken from 11 SARS patients and found by late March that two forms of the virus were present in Hong Kong.

. . .

The World Health Organization says there's no evidence that the mutations have any effect on the disease itself. WHO scientists also say it's not surprising the SARS bug shows genetic changes, because the coronavirus family is prone to mutations.

A U.S. coronavirus expert, David Brian, at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, agreed that a rapidly mutating SARS virus could complicate work toward a vaccine and reliable diagnostic tests.

The crucial question is where the mutations occur in the SARS virus genome, he said. If they affect the shape of an outer protein on the virus, it could hamper vaccines, which rely on training the immune system to recognize particular protein shapes, he said.

Much also depends upon how easily some mutations can be made that would make the virus more lethal or easier to spread. Certain mutations are easier to come by than others (e.g. ones that require a single changed part of RNA as opposed to entirely new combinations), and if the only way the virus can become more dangerous is through complex mutations, then such is unlikely.

The hunt for WMDs goes on -- as do the questions

CNN has a good story right now regarding the ongoing hunt for WMDs in Iraq, as well as increasing doubt about the "intelligence" the Bush administration allegedly possessed which justified going to war and getting over 100 British/American soldiers killed. In particular, David Albright, former UN weapons inspector, makes a rather telling point, one which has also been made around the blogosphere:

Albright says the failure to find WMD so far raises larger concerns.

"One of the questions about whether the U.S. government or officials lied is if the U.S. believed its own story, that there were so many weapons of mass destruction, you would expect them to be completely panicked right now, because they are not protected, and they could go easily missing and get into the hands of terrorists," he said.

"And yet they're not panicked. So you do have to start to wonder whether the ... people who believed these stories, really were the American people and not the U.S. government."

One hopes that such questions will be asked with more frequency.

Friday, May 02, 2003

One dollar, one vote

A federal appeals court today struck down substantial portions of a soft-money campaign financing ban:

Appeals Court Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, part of a special three-judge panel that issued the ruling, called the law ``unconstitutional in virtually all of its particulars.''

``It breaks faith with the fundamental principle -- understood by our nation's Founding Generation, inscribed in the First Amendment and repeatedly reaffirmed by the United States Supreme Court -- that `debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open,''' the Republican-appointed Henderson, who found virtually all major aspects of the law unconstitutional, wrote in a separate document explaining her approach to the ruling.

The Justice Department, which joined the bill's sponsors and the Federal Election Commission in defending the law, said the department was reviewing the ruling and would decide in the near future what its next steps will be, spokesman Charles Miller said.

``It's a huge victory for free speech,'' said Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, who supported less-restrictive legislation that would have limited soft money but not banned it. ``We knew these parts just wouldn't be constitutional, no matter how you looked at it. The bans they put in there were nothing but incumbent-protection tools.''

It simply won't work in a democracy to have the spending of money equated with free speech -- the rich essentially have far more rights than others, under such conditions. I'm becoming increasingly convinced that a constitutional amendment will be necessary to correct this particular situation.
Congrats to Josh Marshall

Who is just inches away from earning his Ph.D.

Josh's always-high-quality Talking Points Memo is a regular stop for me in my jaunts through cyberspace.

Way to go!
Desperation grips the GOP

Increasingly stymied in their attempts to pack the federal judiciary with right wing ideologues, the GOP may turn to the courts to attempt to force Senate rule change or bar filibusters:

"It certainly could be taken to court," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said after Democrats on Thursday successfully blocked Texas Judge Priscilla Owen from getting a federal appeals court seat.

The discussions reflect frustration among majority Republicans that Democrats have been able to sidestep Bush's popularity and undermine one of his platforms: putting more conservatives in key judgeships.

Bush called the Owen filibuster "shameful" and "unfair to this good woman and unfaithful to the Senate's own obligations."

"The Senate has a constitutional responsibility to exercise its advice and consent function and hold up or down votes on all judicial nominees within a reasonable time after nomination," he said in a statement.

Last things first: Bush really needs to read the Constitution he's sworn to uphold. There is no constitutional responsibility or requirement for the Senate to hold an up or down vote on judicial nominees.

Second, Bush's popularity most certainly doesn't extend to packing the federal judiciary with extremists. The kind of opinions his nominees hold are completely at odds with mainstream American notions of justice.

Finally, many of the same people complaining the loudest now had no problem with the Senate stonewalling Clinton's nominees, except in that case they were opposing nominees based less on evidence of political extremism and judicial activism than on the fact that Clinton had nominated them.

The article notes a court challenge would be a long shot for the GOP.

This is the single most important thing the Senate Democrats can do over the next two years. If there's one area in which Bush is making no attempt to pretend he's not an extremist, it is in going out of his way to nominate the most whacko far-right activist jurists in the country for judgeships. They must hold the line!
Are the powers of darkness fading?

OK, dramatic title. Still, according to the BBC, something interesting happened at the kickoff for the latest Dixie Chicks tour:

Before their set, lead singer Natalie Maines invited people to boo for 15 seconds before they started the show, but instead the country trio was greeted with cheers and applause.

As we said last night, the war's over, folks. All the talk about the war locking in the 2004 election for Bush should be put in the trash heap where it belongs. Bush is vulnerable on a host of fronts, and it all depends upon the nature and the intensity of the opposition.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

The war's over!

Mr. Bush won't say it explicitly; he's trying to avoid responsibilities under international law by playing word games that would make anything Clinton did look minor by comparison. He says "the military phase of the war" is over. Well, Mr. Bush, a rose by any other name is still a rose, so we'll say it for you: the war's over.

So now that the war's over, perhaps we can get back to things that aren't mere distractions: hunting down the people responsible for 9/11 and working with our allies to cripple al Qaeda on all levels so they can't do it again, using long-established economic knowledge instead of right-wing fads to fix the economy, doing something to actually get tough on CEOs and corporate fraudsters, addressing other priorities of the American People such as education, healthcare and homeland security...the list goes on and on of things that simply must be dealt with now. These, too, are part of Bush's responsibility as President. He wanted this job, and it simply won't do for him to engage in only the part that he's good at: blowing things up and making moving speeches about it.

Iraq has been little more than an unnecessary detour from pressing problems facing this nation. Despite Bush's claims, our actions there are of dubious value, even for the Iraqis: no WMDs have turned up, no solid links to al Qaeda have been found, and it's all been at the cost of increased anger in the Arab world and damage to our ties with needed allies. Furthermore, we've bought yet another country that will need ongoing attention and resources to meet our mandate to make life better there than when we found it. Our record on this isn't great: although Bush boasted tonight of helping Afghanistan, his statement could hardly have been more cynical: it must be noted that not one cent for rebuilding that country was included in his 2003 budget. Long on words, short on action.

Yes, we're all glad a vicious dictator is gone. One down, many are left. It's time to move on and deal with things that need to be dealt with.
More bad economic news

Looks like a new report on US manufacturing is pretty pessimistic.

I guess it goes without saying that one thing we don't need right now is more tax cuts for the wealthy.
Capitalizing on a war

Looks like Bush wants to associate himself as completely as possible with America's military by making his speech tonight from an aircraft carrier. The speech, no doubt, will play up the "victory for American security" (despite no WMDs having been found) and the "liberation of the Iraqi People" (but most likely won't mention the "liberation" of their cultural relics and historical documents, to say nothing of the growing opposition of the Iraqi public to American troops). In his statements, Bush is supposed to announce the "end of major combat operations" (but not the war, of course -- that would mean we could all start criticizing Bush again!).

What's worse, though, is that Bush is expected to be flown out to the carrier, not on a helicopter, but rather in a jet (Bush won't be piloting, of course -- his actual experience as a pilot was cut a bit short since he was evidently AWOL from the National Guard) that will make a dramatic -- and probably fully-televised -- landing. Perhaps they'll launch a few cruise missiles at the end of his speech for effect, too? One almost wonders why he's not parachuting onto the carrier.

It's never too early to start campaigning, even if the official GOP campaign is being delayed until around Sept. 11 to capitalize on the deaths of 3000 Americans for blatantly political purposes.

UPDATE: Righties are waxing orgasmic over Bush's plane landing on the carrier. Evidently, he even threatened to take the controls for the landing. Well, we can only hope.

In reality, it's a near-certainty that Bush will pretty much be baggage on the trip. Of course, that hasn't stopped the wingnuts from swooning over the historic magnitude of his manliness.
Well, that's not good

As Atrios notes, last week's new unemployment filings remained high, and the previous week's stats were revised upwards.

Last week: 448,000 (initial claims)

Previous week: 461,000 (revised)

And while we're on the topic, this interesting tidbit recently came across the Weasel desk:

From Portside
The International Association of Machinists has
compiled the job creation record of every presidential
administration since World War II. The Machinists
looked at the average growth in monthly employment
during the terms of the last 15 administrations. Here's
what they found:

Truman 1 60,000 jobs gained per month
Truman 2 113,000 jobs gained per month
Eisenhower 1 58,000 jobs gained per month
Eisenhower 2 15,000 jobs gained per month
Kennedy 122,000 jobs gained per month
Johnson 206,000 jobs gained per month
Nixon 1 129,000 jobs gained per month
Nixon/Ford 105,000 jobs gained per month
Carter 218,000 jobs gained per month
Reagan 1 109,000 jobs gained per month
Reagan 2 224,000 jobs gained per month
G. Bush 52,000 jobs gained per month
Clinton 1 242,000 jobs gained per month
Clinton 2 235,000 jobs gained per month
G.W. Bush 69,000 jobs LOST per month

Now, to be fair, the Dub is only halfway through his term, whereas the other presidents have their averages drawn from all years of their presidencies. Still, given the awful performance thus far and the utterly lackluster proposals for "job creation" coming out of this administration, Dubya appears to be headed towards a record. Even Bush's "1.4 million jobs created in 2004", if it pans out, won't be enough to bring him into the black.

Which really kinda sucks for those of us currently looking for employment.
From the front lines

Ever have one of those days when you just don't want to read anything about politics and current events?

Well, today is no longer one of those days -- at least, not after I read this story:

This week, Hawai`i became the first state to pass a resolution supporting our Bill of Rights and our civil liberties. In part it reads, "Whereas the residents of Hawaii during World War II experienced first hand the dangers of unbalanced pursuit of security without appropriate checks and balances for the protection of basic liberties..."

Hawai'i resolves that "to the extent legally possible, no state resources -- including law enforcement funds and educational administrative resources -- may be used for unconstitutional activities, including but not limited to the following under the USA Patriot Act:

  1. Monitoring political and religious gatherings exercising their First Amendment Rights;

  2. Obtaining library records, bookstore records and website activities without proper authorization and without notification;

  3. Issuing subpoenas through the United States Attorney's Office without a court's approval or knowledge;

  4. Requesting nonconsensual releases of students and faculty records from public schools and institutions of higher learning; and

  5. Eavesdropping on confidential communication between lawyers and their clients."

The full text of the bill is here.

It has never been necessary to let Ashcroft go on his rights-shredding crusade in order to combat terrorism. That (like the attack on Iraq) has been the easy way out, used in lieu of realistic assessments of what went wrong on 9/11 and the most effective ways to counter the threat (like actually spending decent sums of money on homeland security--securing our ports and borders, funding emergency personnel, etc.-- rather than indulging in gigantic non-stimulus tax cuts for the wealthy).

Some people get it, folks, and this sort of thing is starting to be heard more and more. There is no reason to cede national security (at home or abroad) to the Bushies, and given their handling of such things, they should be very vulnerable in 2004. We're not talking chinks in the armor, here; these guys basically have no armor to speak of. We just need to take advantage of it, and not allow the Bushies to shamelessly capitalize on 9/11 sentiment to win...

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Osama's crusade

Eugene Oregon at Demagogue asks, "have the terrorists already won?" He wonders whether our decision to get out of Saudi Arabia means Osama bin Laden has met one of his objectives: the removal of American troops from the "Land of the Holy Places". I would have to say that, pretty clearly, one of his objectives has been met -- though perhaps not the way he wanted.

I think it's a good thing, on balance, that we're getting out of Saudi Arabia. For one thing, it may make us a smaller target, from al Qaeda's perspective. At the same time, our support of the Saudi government isn't limited to keeping troops there, and with troops now in Iraq and a puppet government in the offing, they may have more, not less, reason to hate us.

But to answer whether the terrorists have won, we'll have to look at what happens next. If the Saudi government falls or is altered to the kind of Taliban-esque theocracy al Qaeda desires, the terrorists most certainly will have won. Otherwise, they'll still have the "corrupt leaders" to strive against, as well as their backers.
An important read

I urge everyone to read this article in The American Prospect's online version by Michael Tomasky. The basic gist: Democrats should be owning the issue of foreign policy and national defense (the Dems' military service puts that of the GOP to shame, the GOP just pushed for a reduction in Veteran's Benefits, and they used Clinton's military to overthrow Iraq, to take but three examples), yet are ceding it to the GOP in spectacular fashion. Even worse, they've said virtually nothing about the cynical and shameless (what else is new?) GOP move to hold its national convention next year a few miles from Ground Zero in New York, as close to the anniversary date as possible:

This is a many-layered offense -- to the traditions and integrity (such that remains) of the American political process, to the firefighters and police officers who did not give their lives so that Bush could later use their deaths to get a bounce in the polls, to every American citizen who doesn't drink Karl Rove's Kool-Aid, and to plain decency.

And what have the Democrats had to say about this? Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe issued one statement, and to be fair, it was toughly worded. (Although he did issue two official statements on the Santorum flap.) But aside from that, I've seen nada. So here we have it: The one inviolable political rule that supposedly emerged from 9-11 was that no one, and no party, was to seek partisan advantage from the tragedy. Yet the Republicans are doing exactly that, and the Democrats scamper like mice. They hand Bush the issue on a golden platter and say practically nothing. It just so happens that September 11 is a Thursday -- historically, the evening on which the party's nominee gives his convention speech. Do they really have the cojones to . . . one supposes they'll probably do it the week before, but why wouldn't they choose the 11th? It's OK with the Democrats!

In my opinion, Tomasky is right on. There are so many ways the Dems could be going after the chicken-hawk, anti-military GOP'ers, yet are failing to do so. It is hardly necessary to reach for Wesley Clark for the Democrats to have credibility when it comes to foreign policy and national defense. They could start by simply opening their mouths and criticizing the GOP on ready-made topics! The GOP propaganda machine be damned. One hundred Limbaughs couldn't spin this sufficiently if the Dems really went after the administration on this issue.

Let's hope they get the message.
Nothing to see here...

At least, according to the GOP. To the rest of us, though, it would appear a good sign that Bush's approval ratings are already starting to slip (as we predicted), and once again, those polled indicate that the number would would definitely vote for a Democrat or who say "it depends" equals the number of people who would definitely vote for Bush in 2004. Not good for a President who just won a war against a brutal tyrant, huh? Perhaps his bungling of the post-war situation and the economy is taking its toll already.

On a more ominous note, the post-war bump in consumer sentiment is largely gone already. With Bush and his fellow loonies utterly ignoring the economic plight of the States and making things worse with tax cuts that dramatically increase future deficits and service cuts, that's a situation that isn't likely to improve dramatically any time soon.
GOP'ers against equal rights

Demonstrating ongoing hatred of those who are different (and, I think, a blind eye towards public perceptions), the GOP is continuing to back Senator Rick Santorum after his comments equating homosexuality with incest, bestiality, etc. The most hilarious thing, though, is the application of the wingnuts' hated notions of moral relativism in order to do it:

"I think Senator Santorum took a very courageous and moral position based upon principles and his world view," said Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader from Texas.

A tad slippery, huh? How "politically correct".

Still, make no mistake: Delay and others of his ilk fully agree with Santorum's comments. Much of today's GOP is as bigoted as they come, people, and they only tone that bigotry down when the focus groups overwhelmingly tell them they should (e.g. racism doesn't sell well outside of the GOP's half of the beltway, and even they know it. But they can't mask it completely -- the GOP's attempts to woo minorities sound, all too often, like the Grinch trying to convince everyone he's Santa Claus). In this case, though, I believe they're misjudging popular sentiment, and it could very well come back to hurt them...
Dubious support?

I'm sure British Prime Minister Tony Blair is just thrilled by this note of support from die-hard fruitloop Margaret Thatcher, who is using the Iraq War as an excuse to oppose the European Union and push for tax cuts in Britian (it should be noted that Thatcher's far-right "economic fad" policies in 1980's caused significant hardship in Britain -- sound familiar?).

Ouch, Tony. With friends like these...
Dems continue fighting rearguard action

Contact your Senators (even an email of support would be helpful!) and tell them you support the Democrats' intentions to filibuster the nomination of extremist judicial nominee Priscilla Owen, the latest in a string of far-right activist judges to come down the pipe.

As noted below, we're starting to see a more vicious and unified attack on the Democrats for taking a stand against the wingnuts. GOP'ers are starting to crow more loudly about the filibuster hurting the Democrats politically. We think they're wrong, but a lot depends upon the Democrats' willingness to continue to take a stand and fight for it publicly.

It's critical that opposition be maintained and the far right be thwarted from packing the federal judiciary with extremist activists, a long-time dream of theirs which will radically alter judicial decisions and harm this country for decades. This ain't your daddy's GOP, folks, and it must be stopped.
Doing their damndest

Congressional GOP'ers are still trying to screw the country as best they can, and are now "fighting for the largest tax cut they can get" (Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist).

"My goal is to grow that number as high as I possibly can," said Dr. Frist, who this month angered House Republicans by not telling them of a private Senate agreement to hold tax cuts to $350 billion while the House was approving $550 billion. Senator Frist, of Tennessee, said today he had apologized to his counterparts in the House and was ready to move on.

But especially telling is this quote by Rep. Tom "I hate kids and puppies" Delay, R-TX:

Mr. DeLay said he now "feels comfortable" that Dr. Frist understands the mistake he made last month and would not repeat it. Mr. DeLay and other Republicans also moved to shift the attention from intramural squabbling to Democratic reservations about the tax cuts.

"We are not going to allow the Democrats to practice the politics of economic destruction again by foul-mouthing the economy at the same time they are trying to submarine the president's economic package," said Mr. DeLay, who said the opposition felt "an obligation to gripe."

"Politics of economic destruction". Wow, that's something. Not only are the Democrats "practicing politics" (as always, of course), but their efforts will lead to "economic destruction". One wonders whether this is a typical "out the rear-end of Delay" statement, or current GOP talking points on display. If the latter, it may very well backfire, as most people see the tax cut as economically destructive, not the opposite -- it's not as though any reputable economist supports the Dub's pro-deficit, most-Americans-be-damned tax cuts as a realistic economic stimulus. "Economic destruction" is a little too grandiose to fly with the average American on this issue, I think.

More interestingly, it would seem that some back-channel nastiness has taken place and Frist has been "whipped into shape". No more of this compromise stuff. We may be seeing the beginning of a stronger, darker and more concerted front on the part of extremists in the GOP to get their entire agenda rammed through Congress before the 2004 elections. On the one hand, this could signal more trouble for all of us; on the other, it may make the GOP's extremism far more obvious and easy to oppose. Time will tell, but either way, these guys need to go.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Spinning a story

It would appear that the "Liberal Media" is spinning the Katrina Leung story to shine the least light on the Republican Party as possible.

Ms. Leung, a donor and fund-raiser for political candidates in California, also played an important role in the investigation of Chinese donations to the Clinton-Gore campaign. A former senior official in the Justice Department said that if Ms. Leung was a double agent, she might have compromised the entire campaign finance investigation. "It raises questions about whether the Chinese knew the details about the whole finance investigation even before Congress or Janet Reno knew them," the official said, referring to the former attorney general in the Clinton administration.

Of course it does.

Until recently, the GOP, which excoriated Bill Clinton in the 90's for his alleged ties with China, could count Leung as one of its shining stars in California. Leung, pure and simple, was not just "a donor and fund-raiser for political candidates". She was a GOP activist. Had this come out during the 90's, and had her ties been primarily with the Democrats, every media outlet would be running stories on the conspiracy between the Dems (and Clinton, of course!) and China.

I find it difficult to believe no GOP'ers knew about her spying activity, don't you?
When even secret bidding isn't enough...

Even though USAID said it conducted secret bidding for Iraq rebuilding contracts in order to get the appropriate companies to the area as quickly as possible, it actually selected at least one company that doesn't meet normal requirements. The solution? Eliminate the requirement. Except this particular requirement seems rather important:

The agency awarding Iraq (news - web sites) reconstruction contracts deleted its requirement for a security clearance after realizing it awarded a project to a company that lacked one, an internal report says.

The U.S. Agency for International Development justified the change by deciding the situation in Iraq made the clearance unnecessary for seaport rebuilding work.

The explanation didn't impress the agency's inspector general. USAID should have changed the requirement before selecting a contractor — not afterward, according to a report Monday by Bruce Crandlemire, the assistant inspector general for audit.

A couple of questions arise. In the best-case scenario, what does this say about the actual efficacy of such a circumvented bidding process?

In the worst, is the actual situation one of changing the requirements around to fit a certain company or companies? And if this is the case, what criteria were actually used to select those companies in the closed, secret bidding that was conducted, one in which we already know some participants had direct monetary ties with the administration?

The article goes on to mention:

Stevedoring Services [the company in question] is the largest marine terminal operator in the United States. Between 1999 and 2002, the company and its employees made nearly $24,000 in political contributions — about 80 percent to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

I'm not sure which of the above scenarios actually occurred -- I'm naturally inclined to go with "incompetence", rather than "conspiracy", but with everything else I've seen about this bidding process and the current administration...

Monday, April 28, 2003

Pre-spin spin

Howard Kurtz doesn't always get it right, in our opinion, but his take on the GOP's attempt to spin Dubya's inevitable wilting approval ratings gets high marks. In particular, he nails it here:

We don't care what they say – if an incumbent president who benefited from two wars and is raising about a zillion dollars more than his opponents falls behind in any poll, that will be a seismic event and Dowd's memo will be forgotten.

Bingo. Despite the GOP's attempt to own the issue early, Dubya's flaccid polling is nothing new. In fact, except for the "poll-viagra" approval-ratings boost he's received from the wars he's waged, the Dub has had a...bit of a problem keeping things up, shall we say.

In all seriousness, as we've noted before Bush's approval ratings have continually gone south, save for the temporary hikes thanks to wars. If this is what the GOP means by "more realistic ratings", then we heartily agree. Realistic ratings for Bush are likely in the upper-thirties/low fourties (roughly the segment of the population that's either hard-line right wing or can be expected to be completely uninformed about what's going on in the country).

Sunday, April 27, 2003

And speaking of the states...

The New York Times has a good article regarding the state fiscal crisis and right-wing notions about such. It starts out quoting the Heritage Foundation (never a good sign for an author who wants his article to be taken seriously). Grover Norquist, a White House advisor, was quoted demonstrating "compassionate conservatism" by claiming he hopes a state goes bankrupt (not his state, of course). It even refers to "profligate state spending" during the 1990's -- rather misleading, since state spending (as a percent of GDP) dipped throughout the 90's, and has only now returned to its 1992 levels.

However, it then goes on to debunk the wingnuts' claims that the states are just wasting money:

Many state officials say it is painful and even infuriating for them to be forced to raise taxes while Washington, which is not required to balance its budget, debates how many billions to cut federal taxes.

"It's extraordinarily frustrating, because we're being forced to take contradictory actions to the federal government," said Angela Monson, a Democratic state senator from Oklahoma who is president of the national conference. "And on top of that, they're imposing mandates on us without picking up the tab."

. . .

States also accuse Washington of forcing them to enact expensive programs, like Mr. Bush's No Child Left Behind education act, without providing the money to pay for them. Mitchell E. Daniels, the White House budget director, often cites a $22 billion increase in state aid from this fiscal year to the next, but state officials say that 80 percent of that amount is simply rising Medicaid costs. Mr. Bush signed a bill to pay for the war in Iraq a few days ago that included $2.2 billion in aid to states and cities for homeland security, but the state legislatures conference is urging members to demand an additional $40 billion in temporary assistance.

But my favorite part came at the end:

"If you just pour money into the states, it increases their spending," said Gov. John G. Rowland, Republican of Connecticut. "In the end, only tax cuts will provide the economic stimulation to grow our revenue bases."

But just a few weeks ago, Governor Rowland signed into a law a half-point increase in his state's personal income tax.

Funny how reality has a way of screwing up the wingnuts' ideas, doesn't it?
He said, she said over taxes

It would appear that the New York Times Business section is now in the "he said, she said" business, too. In an article this morning, it describes both sides of the tax cut debate as painting unrealistic pictures:

Would that lead to an economic boom, as the Republicans have held, or cripple the economy, as the Democrats have argued?

The answer, which could never have been gleaned by listening to the Congressional debate, is probably neither. In a report last month that went largely unnoticed with all the war news, the Congressional Budget Office, which provides Congress with impartial, expert economic counsel, concluded that President Bush's tax and spending plan "would provide a relatively small impetus in an economy the size of the United States's."

Fair enough, so far. The report went on to state,

THE budget was indeed important, but not because of its effect on the economy. All the talk about the wisdom of tax cuts and the dangers of deficits was a smoke screen masking the fundamental philosophical divide that has separated Democrats and Republicans since the New Deal.

Republican politicians, by and large, want to shrink the role of the government outside the military. They have never much cared for Social Security and Medicare, the crown jewels of Democratic lawmaking. They dislike most aid to education, environmental regulations and labor laws. They want to cut taxes not so much to buoy the economy as to take money away from the government. Budget deficits, in the Republican view, are better than surpluses. If there is extra money, they believe, the government will waste it.

Democratic politicians generally want to expand the government other than the military. They want universal medical insurance and more generous Medicare benefits. They want more environmental protection and stricter regulation of business. They are comfortable with high income taxes because the poor and the middle class bear little of the burden. And most worry about budget deficits, not because of their economic effect but because deficits prevent the government from offering more services. If the deficits expected over the next decade grew out of a new national health insurance program, say, instead of income-tax cuts, few Democrats would complain.

Again, some parts of this are fair, and given the current priorities of most Americans (as gauged by polling), it doesn't look good for the GOP. But one part of the above describes Democrats as Republicans like to see them, not as Democrats actually believe.

For instance, few Democrats today are actually for "high income taxes". Many would be quite satisfied with returning income taxes to the levels of 1993, with a top tax bracket of 39.6%. This can hardly be called "high", since the top bracket throughout the 50's and 60's was around 90%.

There's also an implication to the above that the article doesn't delve into. Yes, it's true that a large budget deficit throughout the next decade will most likely not "ruin" the economy. Even the states, which are hurting right now and will need to cut back on economy-supporting services, won't be in deficit for the whole decade. But the tax cuts in question will dramatically increase the already-huge disparity between the rich and the poor in this country (something that a progressive federal tax system helps to ameliorate, to a degree). I will go into the many reasons why this is undesirable in a future posting, but for now, it's enough to mention that GOP plans will starve popular programs and leave the poor and the middle class out in the cold, while the fabulously wealthy reap the benefits of everyone's labor.

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