Time for Democrats to surrender on taxes?

This is one of those big think Ezra Klein pieces that just leave me jealous of the quality of his analysis.  He suggests that Democrats stop– for the time being at least– trying to raise taxes.  And I think he’s exactly right:

For Democrats, the idea behind sequestration — the across-the-board spending cuts that came about from the 2011 debt-ceiling debate — was that the defense cuts would be so objectionable to Republicans that it would force them to cut a deal that raised taxes.

Democrats made a mistake. Protecting defense spending isn’t a top priority for today’s Republican Party…

And, this quote is so important I’m going to set it off and embolden it:

At this point, the Republican opposition to taxes has nothing to do with policy. It has nothing to do with the economy. It’s religion. It’s dogma. It’s identity. Refusing to raise taxes is what it means to be a Republican in this day and age.

Exactly.  Tax cut theology.  So, what are Democrats to do?

The worst mistake Democrats could make would be to become the mirror image of Republicans on the tax issue. Republicans are cannibalizing everything they care about — defense, deficit reduction, their chances of retaking the Senate — to keep taxes low. The Republican obsession with taxes is an opportunity for Democrats to exploit, not an example for them to mimic.

The core question for the American economy isn’t taxes. Or spending. It’s growth…

The budget debate, in other words, should be a growth debate. And Democrats’ top priority shouldn’t be higher taxes. It should be growth — and, to be sure, the distribution of that growth…

Third, they should see their leverage clearly: Republicans badly want entitlement cuts, but they don’t want them enough to trade for taxes. They badly want to replace sequestration, but not enough to trade for taxes. And they badly want tax reform — but, again, not enough to trade for higher taxes…

Democrats should use their leverage to get something they actually want. Immigration reform and infrastructure investment are obvious places to start. They mean vastly more to the economy and to people’s lives than slightly higher taxes on rich people. And they’re things that many in the Republican Party want, too…

Today’s Republican Party might simply say no to these kinds of broader deals. If so, then at least Democrats tried every compromise possible, and it’s that much clearer that Republicans simply refuse to make any concessions at all.

But if Democrats don’t try because they refuse to admit that sequestration was a strategic error, and taxes aren’t going to go up for the next few years — well, that’ll just mean piling one mistake on top of another.

Yep.  It seems pretty clear that Democrats are never going to get higher tax revenue out of a House of Representatives with a Republican majority.  That’s unfortunate and bad for a variety of beneficial government programs that could use the funds, but it is reality.  Might as well try and use Republicans blind obedience this principle for leverage where they can.  

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Cat’s eye view

Need a little break from politics for some cool science.  I just started following Wired magazine on Facebook.  Should have done this before.  Lots of cool stuff.  I love this photo simulation comparing cat’s vision to human vision.  Top is human; bottom is cat for the same image.

No one ever talks about what the world looks like if you’re a cat. Instead, we speak of the bird’s-eye view and use fish-eye lenses to make things look weird.

But we rarely consider how the internet’s favorite subject sees the world. Luckily, artist Nickolay Lammhas volunteered to act as cat-vision conduit. Here, Lamm presents his idea of what different scenes might look like if you were a cat, taking into consideration the way feline eyes work, and using input from veterinarians and ophthalmologists.

For starters, cats’ visual fields are broader than ours, spanning roughly 200 degrees instead of 180 degrees, and their visual acuity isn’t as good. So, the things humans can sharply resolve at distances of 100-200 feet look blurry to cats, which can see these objects at distances of up to 20 feet. That might not sound so great, but there’s a trade-off: Because of the various photoreceptors parked in cats’ retinas, they kick our asses at seeing in dim light. Instead of the color-resolving, detail-loving cone cells that populate the center of human retinas, cats (and dogs) have many more rod cells, which excel in dim light and are responsible for night-vision capability. The rod cells also refresh more quickly, which lets cats pick up very rapid movements — like, for example, the quickly shifting path a marauding laser dot might trace.

Lastly, cats see colors differently than we do, which is why the cat-versions of these images look less vibrant than the people-versions.

Of course, now I’m eagerly awaiting the dog vision version.

Photo of the day

From a Fall-themed set at In Focus:

Two deer clash antlers during a misty morning in Richmond Park, south west London, on September 27, 2013. (Reuters/Toby Melville) 

Armchair psychiatry: Ted Cruz edition

Via Mike Barr (whom I’m going to just assume would have granted me permission had I asked).  Not a lot of comment necessary:

Ted Cruz?

Signs of a sociopath (http://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.html). And,http://www.wikihow.com/Determine-if-Someone-Is-a-Sociopath

* Glibness and Superficial Charm.
* Manipulative and Conning. They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may dominate and humiliate their victims.
* Grandiose Sense of Self. Feels entitled to certain things as “their right.”
* Pathological Lying. Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.
* Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt. A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.

Or heck, go listen to this awesome This American Life on psychopathology and see what you think.

It’s over, but it hurt

Nice article from the Times yesterday making the point that this is not just some stupid political game.  Real people — and lots of ’em– (and the American economy in general) have suffered and will continue to because of the Tea Party’s reckless gambit:

Even with the shutdown of the United States government and the threat of a default coming to an end, the cost of Congress’s gridlock has already run well into the billions, economists estimate. And the total will continue to grow even after the shutdown ends, partly because of uncertainty about whether lawmakers might reach another deadlock early next year.

A complete accounting will take months once the government reopens and the Treasury resumes adding to the country’s debt. But economists said that the intransigence of House Republicans would take a bite out of fourth-quarter growth, which will affect employment, business earnings and borrowing costs. The ripple from Washington will be felt around the globe.

“We saw huge effects during the summer of 2011, with consumer confidence hitting a 31-year low in August and third-quarter G.D.P. growing just 1.4 percent,” said Beth Ann Bovino, chief United States economist at Standard & Poor’s, referring to earlier brinkmanship over the debt ceiling. “Given that this round of debt ceiling negotiations” took place during a shutdown, she said, “the impact on the economy could be even more severe.” …

Still, many businesses might not recover all the money they would have made had the government operated normally, said Shai Akabas of the Bipartisan Policy Center, a research group based in Washington.

The two-week shutdown has trimmed about 0.3 percentage point from fourth-quarter growth, or about $12 billion, the forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers, based in St. Louis, recently estimated. Standard & Poor’s is more pessimistic, estimating that the shutdown will cut about 0.6 percent off inflation-adjusted gross domestic product, equivalent to $24 billion. Most analysts are predicting that growth will remain subpar, at an annual pace of 2 percent or less.

Thank you Republican Party.  Way to put the American people first!

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