Supercommittee asymmetry

I don’t think I blogged any on the Super committee post-mortem.  I think this Derek Thompson piece in the Atlantic is my favorite for getting at the key points of Republican intransigence and journalistic incompetence.  The subhead really gets it:

Forget “a pox on both houses.” The supercommmittee has failed not because Democrats wouldn’t touch entitlements, but because Republicans can’t bring themselves to raise taxes

Here’s the key paragraphs:

If true, these reports suggest that Democrats offered Republicans not only a fair deal, but a center-right deal in line with the Bowles-Simpson plan that received votes from multiple sitting Republican senators.

Consider the following: Their deal would have raised taxes by 43 cents for every dollar saved. By comparison, in the five grand bargains of the 1980s and early 1990s, tax increases accounted for 61 cents of every dollar saved, Catherine Rampell wrote for the New York Times. “In President Reagan’s 1982 and 1984 budget-trimming deals, more than 80 percent of deficit reductions came from tax increases,” she said.

You might say that Democrats didn’t go far enough on entitlement reform. But they went just as far as Bowles-Simpson and the Bipartisan Policy Center’s deficit plans. Both of those panels found about 15% of their savings in health care and Social Security savings. The Democrats’ found about 16%.

The GOP’s excuse for rejecting the Democrats’ offer is that “now is not the time to raise taxes.” This is a nifty juke for two reasons. First, there is no such thing as “the time to raise taxes” for Republicans. Second, “now” isn’t the time most Democrats wants to raise taxes, anyway. The White House is still pushing for an extension for the payroll tax cut, which would keep effective tax rates at 50-year lows for most families. The supercommittee could have easily voted to schedule tax increases to begin in 2013 on the most wealthy and creep into the upper-middle class over the course of the decade as the economy moves to full strength.

This is your upshot. The supercommmittee has failed not because Democrats wouldn’t touch entitlements, but because Republicans can’t bring themselves to meaningfully raise taxes.

I am soooo tired of reading about how Democratic unwillingness to address entitlements is the yin to the Republican anti-tax yang.  It is simply untrue and a tired journalistic trope that comes from not actually paying attention to what Democrats have been offering for as long as Obama has been president.  Not to mention, people who actually care about and understand public policy (i.e., a category including very few journalists and even fewer Republican elites know that the 1) we are at post-war lows in our levels of taxation as a proportion of GDP and 2) the “entitlement problem” is a health care costs problem and Democrats have at least tried to make a good start on that with a little something called the Affordable Care Act.

Photo of the Day

Saddam Hussein’s gold-plated assault rifles on display at DIA headquarters in DC:

From a terrific gallery of images from the drawdown in Iraq.

Netflix fail

My son Alex has become a complete Ipad junkie in the past few weeks.  Despite never really wanting to watch TV all that much he loves watching virtually anything on the Ipad.  I installed the ABC Player to watch Modern Family last week and I swear he spent most of the next day in a Dancing with the Stars marathon (he really likes the music, I think).

Mostly, though he loves to watch Netflix streaming on the Ipad.  Amazingly, though, this seems to be the least parent control friendly media content on the market.  If I watch something “adult” (by which I mean an R-rated movie, not adult, adult) the night before, when Alex logs into Netflix it’s right there in “watch recent” not to mention its recommending him other kid non-friendly movies based upon what I watched.  A little googling and I discovered there’s no way around this and plenty of frustrated parents.  Just what are those Netflix people doing?  It’s really not that hard.  Just let parents set a level of control and then allow a password override.  The current system only allows you to simply exempt everything over a particular rating with no flexibility.  Given Alex’s developmental level and the fact that he doesn’t seem to pay close attention to the more adult content I’m not all that worried about the fact that I’ve found him watching “The Evil Dead” and “Breaking Bad.”  However, to me this is just another sign that the people in charge of Netflix came up with a great product, but really don’t know what they’re doing.

Pepper Spray

Nice article in the Times on the growing role of pepper spray in law enforcement and the public debate:

It has become the crowd-control measure of choice lately by police departments from New York to Denver to Portland, Ore., as they counter protests by the Occupy Wall Street movement.

To some, pepper spray is a mild, temporary irritant and its use has been justified as cities and universities have sought to regain control of their streets, parks and campuses. After the video at Davis went viral, Megyn Kelly on Fox News dismissed pepper spray as “a food product, essentially.”

To the American Civil Liberties Union, its use as a crowd-control device, particularly when those crowds are nonthreatening, is an excessive and unconstitutional use of force and violates the right to peaceably assemble.

Some of the Davis students are threatening civil suits against the university on these grounds. The chancellor has called the use of pepper spray “unacceptable” and has put the officers on administrative leave.

It’s also nice to read that the inventor of pepper spray is quite appalled by the actions at UC Davis:

To Kamran Loghman, who helped develop pepper spray into a weapons-grade material with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the 1980s, the incident at Davis violated his original intent.

“I have never seen such an inappropriate and improper use of chemical agents,” Mr. Loghman said in an interview.

Mr. Loghman, who also helped develop guidelines for police departments using the spray, said that use-of-force manuals generally advise that pepper spray is appropriate only if a person is physically threatening a police officer or another person.

On a fun side note, there’s an on-line petition requesting that Fox News’ Megyn “pepper spray is a food product” Kelly drink some pepper spray on the air.

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