Democrats and the Bush tax cuts

I have to say, the current position of the Democrats in Congress on extending the Bush tax cuts is just mind-blowingly stupid.  As Chait has repeatedly pointed out, all they have to do is separate the cuts for those under $250K from those above.  They can do this– they are still in charge so they control the agenda.  If any Democrats feel the need to vote for all the tax cuts, they can do that in a separate bill.  This is a huge political winner, because by separating the bills you are daring the Republicans to vote against extending the Bush tax cuts for 98% of Americans.  How Democrats cannot manage to pull this off is just astounding.  Here’s Chait:

Now, the tax cuts are expiring, and Republicans say you have to address the whole package together. You can make it permanent or temporary, but the line in the sand for them is that you can’t decouple the tax cute for income over $250,000 from the rest.

The Democrats think this is some kind of dilemma. It’s not. It’s a get out of jail free card. It’s the perfect excuse to let the whole Bush tax cut package expire. You can say, hey, we tried to extend those tax cuts but the Republicans blocked us. It has the virtue of being completely true.

Now, Republicans say they’ll block the whole tax package if Democrats hold a vote just for tax cuts on income under $250,000. Do you think they really can really hold that line? To quote a noted statesman, hell no they can’t

Think about it from the Republican point of view. The political aspect of this issue is a zero-sum competition. What do Republicans want? They want Democrats to extend all the tax cuts together. What they don’t want is to have to fight for the tax cuts for income over $250,000 separately. They’re terrified of it.

I understand that some Democrats are extremely responsive to the richest 2-3% of their constituents, who make more than $250,000 and feel put upon. So fine — have a separate vote. Nobody’s saying you can’t vote for tax cuts for your rich friends. The whole thing is that you have to separate the two.

A while ago, I was corresponding with a conservative — a real conservative, not a liberals’ idea of a conservative — about why the Democrats won’t do the obvious thing. He was at a total loss.

I get that the Democrats in Congress can be really stupid, but can’t Obama find a way to rally the troops and make this happen.  It’s stuff like this that actually makes me question Obama’s political acumen.  Really disappointing all around.

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The Deficit Commission

I’ve been talking to so many people about Kevin Drum’s post on the deficit commission earlier this week, that I forgot to actually mention it here.   As this chart indicates, health care costs are the 1600 pound gorilla of our long-term fiscal solvency:

Here’s Drum:

To put this more succinctly: any serious long-term deficit plan will spend about 1% of its time on the discretionary budget, 1% on Social Security, and 98% on healthcare. Any proposal that doesn’t maintain approximately that ratio shouldn’t be considered serious. The Simpson-Bowles plan, conversely, goes into loving detail about cuts to the discretionary budget and Social Security but turns suddenly vague and cramped when it gets to Medicare. That’s not serious.

There are other reasons the Simpson-Bowles plan isn’t serious. Capping revenue at 21% of GDP, for example. The plain fact is that over the next few decades Social Security will need a little more money and healthcare will need a lot more. That will be true even if we implement the greatest healthcare cost containment plan in the world. Pretending that we can nonetheless cap revenues at 2000 levels isn’t serious.

I wouldn’t go quite that far myself.  There’s certainly important steps we can take with other budgetary items that we shouldn’t ignore (hello, defense spending), but the larger point is well taken.  Jon Chait also has a really thoughtful post on the topic (though I think he tries to go a little far to show he’s not one of “those liberals.”).

DADT– the view from within

Any hope that now we have a report suggesting that more than 70% of active duty military favor repealing Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell, that Republicans will stop obstructing on this?  I doubt it.  Got that– 70% of active duty! Not surprisingly, the most opposition, though still a minority, is in the Marine Corps.  The thing I keep coming back to is that this mostly seems to be an infantry issue.  Almost every argument– such as that made by the Marine Corps Commandant in the linked article– ends up being about how hard this will be for soldiers in infantry units.  The truth is, front-line infantry units in active combat are a very small portion of the military.   Not to say that we should prevent gays from serving in these units, but I just really don’t see this as being a problem, as I cannot imagine too many openly gay men self-selecting into the most homophobic aspects of the service.  And, I would imagine that any that do would be a tough-as-nails soldier you would sure want on your side.  Most openly gay individuals in the Army will ultimately be repairing helicopters, directing air traffic, filling up transport jets, etc.  Hard to see how being gay is such a threat to “unit cohesion” there.

Girls’ sports

I’ll leave the summary to the N&O:

The National Women’s Law Center filed federal discrimination complaints today accusing 12 school systems, including Wake County, of failing to provide high school girls with equal opportunities as boys to play sports.

The complaints say the 12 school districts are in violation of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs. The group says that the districts have high schools with double-digit gaps between the percentage of students who are girls and the percentage of athletes who are girls.

Here’s the thing…  This is so wrong.   Simple gaps in participation alone do not tell us if there is actually discrimination or any less opportunity for girl athletes.  What really annoys me is the assumption that participation difference alone means there must be discrimination.  To me, this is the out of touch with reality uber-feminist viewpoint that suggests women and men are exactly the same.  Is just possible that maybe boys want to participate in sports more than girls do?  Ummm, yeah.  Whether that’s society’s doing or not is beside the point.  It’s pretty clear to most of us, though, that boys are simply more into girls.  I swear, just two days ago before I even read about this, David said to me, “Dad, how come all the girls just sit around and talk during recess while the boys play soccer or basketball?”  If there was just as much demand for girls’ sports as boys’ and the schools were discriminating, I’d be upset as anyone.  But clearly there’s not.  In fact, WCPSS is doing all they can to ensure fair opportunities:

Every Wake school offers an equal number of sports for girls and boys’ teams. In several schools’ cases, there are more team sports for girls than boys, even when cheerleading is not considered to be a sport. (Wake County treats cheerleading as a sport, paying coaches from the system’s coaching supplement scale, providing equipment and regulating schedules and competition.)

“I am completely and totally in favor of giving girls the opportunity to be involved in athletics,” Guthrie said. “We are offering every sport, except lacrosse, that the NCHSAA has at every school.”

Guthrie said Title IX regulations are a regular topic for discussion during the system’s meetings of athletics directors. The athletic directors are reminded to be aware of keeping school awards similar for comparable boys and girls sports teams and to keep comparable facilities and practice times.

All coaches are paid from the same supplement scale and comparable coaches – boys basketball and girls basketball coaches, for example – are paid at the same level. Coaches’ supplements vary according to experience.

It’s also worth mentioning that if one considers cheerleading a sport (not a debate I want to have at the moment), the numbers also look dramatically better.  Surely it’s at least as much a sport as field hockey, right?  :-).

Again, just to be clear.  I’m an avowed feminist; I think women and girls should have all the opportunities that men/boys do; and I think, overall, Title IX, is a great thing.  But pretending that girls have just as much interest in sports as boys doesn’t really get us anywhere.  There’s not been some upswelling of complaints among Wake parents for their daughters.  Rather, some national group simply saw 12% more male participation and decided that, de facto, this meant gender discrimination.

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