How to do a political interview

Anderson Cooper eviscerates the idiocy of North Carolina House candidate Renee Ellmers (she of the terror Mosque ad) in this interview.  Nothing, wishy-washy, he just asks her to defend her indefensible arguments.  If only more journalists took their responsbility to getting the truth out more seriously, instead of just allowing candidates to assert absurd statements without being challenged.  Well done, Anderson Cooper.

You don’t have to be smart to be in Congress

Yet more evidence from the “moderate”  Democratic “Blue Dogs” in the House.  Via Kevin Drum:

Are the Blue Dogs congenital morons? Wait. Don’t answer that…

It’s not just that the Blue Dogs are in favor of extending tax cuts for the rich, which is an unpopular policy. They’re also in favor of cutting programs over the next two years to pay for it. This is not only a dumb idea economically, but would almost certainly make the tax cuts even more unpopular. What’s going to be their next idea? Tax cuts for the rich, funded by spending cuts for everyone else, and while we’re at it let’s outlaw barbecuing on the 4th of July.

Of course, they could be more like Republicans and just borrow money to pay for tax cuts for the rich.  Either way… I’ll quote Forest Gump on this: stupid is as stupid does.

Chart of the Day

Via Austin Frakt at the Incidental Economist:

Yikes!  The chart is just a little worse than reality, as it is based on CBO projections from before health care reform.  But still, look at that projected revenue line vs. the Medicare and Medicaid line.  Obviously, somethings got to change.  Of course, the recent Pledge to America pledged basically not do anything to the Medicare/Medicaid line and to shrink the revenue line.  Also, once again shows that for people serious about the long-term fiscal health of our country, the key is health care, not social security.  Here’s Frakt’s take:

When I read that the House leadership of one party has no plan for the future of spending by public health programs and the other party has done its best and can only find a way to a 6% adjustment [the projected savings from Affordable Care Act], I want to laugh, I probably should cry, but all I can do is shake my head. Too bad two or more wrongs don’t make a right. Really, they just make a costly mess.

Is the graph above really so hard to understand?

Facebook friends and politics

Realizing that not all my facebook friends share my politics, I have created a facebook friend list entitled, “no political updates” with which I make sure certain persons are excluded from seeing it whenever I post political material.   There’s plenty of facebook friends I know I politically disagree with and that’s all well and good, but there’s a few others, most notably in-laws, that I think it best we just keep politics out of our relationship.  I bring this up in light of a recent study that says most people falsely assume their facebook friends agree with them more than they actually do.  Not all that surprising, we kind of believe that all the time about everybody.  Anyway, via Miller-McCune:

The latest evidence: Newly published research finds a lot of people make inaccurate assumptions about their Facebook friends.

“Friends disagree more than they think they do,” a Yahoo! Research team led by Sharad Goel reports in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. “In particular, friends are typically unaware of their disagreement, even when they say they discuss the topic.”

Facebook users tend to infer the opinions of their online chums, “in part by relying on stereotypes of their friends, and in part by projecting their own views,” the researchers write. While this assumption-based thinking works most of the time, it also means people are often clueless about the true opinions of others.

A couple comments.  First, I’m sure I’m likewise guilty of this mistake, but I suspect less so than others, as I spend my life talking about politics with people and am always trying to gauge, often implicitly and surreptitiously, where people stand on politics.  Second, I think that it is really cook that research using facebook is now making it into JPSP– the most prestigious journal for social psychology research.  If I was in Sociology or social-psychology, I guarantee you I’d be all over facebook for my research.  It’s a goldmine.

Taxes and the rich

Really nice column by Richart Thaler in the Times debunking pretty much all of the right’s talking points on why the really rich really need their tax cuts (note to reader: they don’t).  My favorite parts:

They [the Republican leadership] offer three arguments to support their view.

The first is that it is folly to raise taxes in a weak economy. There is some merit to this argument, of course, but economic policy is always about trade-offs.

Tax cuts are one of many ways to stimulate the economy. Building infrastructure, for example, is another. We have to choose. And if the primary goal is stimulating the economy, tax breaks to the rich are simply not cost-effective. Numerous studies have shown that the poor spend nearly all of their income, while the rich save a significant amount of theirs…

Which brings us to the third argument. Conservatives say that to do anything other than extending tax cuts to everyone would amount to “class warfare.”

The best response to that notion comes from Warren E. Buffett: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, two academic economists, provide data to back up Mr. Buffett’s view. They show that the proportion of income earned by the top 1 percent of American families was about 10 percent of the national total from 1945 to 1979. Since 1980, that share has doubled, reaching about 20 percent in 2008 — or more, if capital gains are included.

I’ll also mention here, the Thaler is the co-author (with Cass Sunstein) of an excellent book, Nudge. (Which I now realize, I somehow forgot to review on my webpage). Anyway, Nudge takes the insights and findings from behavioral economics and applies them to actual policy debates.  It’s no Predictably Irrational (a wonderfully engaging book on behavioral economics), but given the more serious tone and intentions, it’s quite readable and quite good.

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