Photo of the day

From National Geographic Found:

A balloon from Anchorage, Alaska, flies over Cook Inlet, 1986. Photograph by Chris Johns, National Geographic Creative

A balloon from Anchorage, Alaska, flies over Cook Inlet, 1986. PHOTOGRAPH BY CHRIS JOHNS, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

The Israel problem

I thought this Saletan piece on the recent Israeli elections made an important point:

In the final days of his campaign, Netanyahu pitched himself to Israelis as the candidate who would stand up toPresident Obama, “American money,” the “international community,” and Israel’s Arab minority. He bragged that he had used settlements to seize strategic Palestinian land, and he vowed to keep doing so. A day before the election, he renounced Israel’s commitment to a Palestinian state. He pledged that if he were re-elected, he wouldn’t permit such a state. He implored Jews to flock to the polls and drown out the ballots of Arab Israelis.

Many Americans, including me, thought these rants would hurt Netanyahu. We were wrong. In those final days, his support soared. On Tuesday, Netanyahu’s party, Likud, won a plurality of seats in Israel’s parliament. Thirty-three percent of Israelis voted for Likud or for smaller parties that officially rejected a Palestinian state. Another 15 percent voted for Jewish nationalist or ultra-Orthodox parties that have blocked Palestinian independence. A further 7 percent voted for a Likud offshoot that is expected to round out the new government. That adds up to more than 55 percent of the electorate. It’s more than 60 percent of Israel’s Jewish voters.

Netanyahu can no longer be dismissed as a rogue. He has proved that his people stand behind him. They have given him more seats in parliament than he had before and a more hawkish coalition of ruling parties. We don’t have a Netanyahu problem anymore. We have an Israel problem.

Yep.  I don’t claim to have a lot of expertise on this area, but after seeing a lot of headlines and such suggesting this is a Netanyahu problem, not an Israel problem, I’d have to say that Saletan seems pretty on target.  Saletan suggests that we need to change our policy positions of having Israel’s back “no matter what” if we expect Israel to change.  That also seems pretty hard to argue with.

The Republican Budget

In the world of budgets, initial proposals are often just fantasy documents.  But there is at least some connection to things like 1) basic reality, and 2) basic math.  Not so the latest Republican House budget.  Dana Milbank goes to town:

It was altogether fitting that Republicans rolled out their budget during a festival of inebriation in honor of the man who magically (and apocryphally) banished snakes from Ireland. What Republicans have done with their budget is no less fantastic: They have employed lucky charms and mystical pots of gold to make them appear more sober about balancing the budget than they actually are.

“We do not rely on gimmicks or creative accounting tricks to balance our budget,” the House Republicans say in the introduction to their fiscal 2016 budget.

True, the budget does not rely on gimmicks. The budget is a gimmick…

It assumes that current tax cuts will be allowed to expire as scheduled — which would amount to a $900 billion tax increase that nobody believes would be allowed to go into effect.

It proposes to repeal Obamacare but then counts revenues and savings from Obamacare as if the law remained in effect.

It claims to save $5.5 trillion over 10 years, but in the fine print — the budget plan’s instructions to committees — it only asks them to identify about $5 billion in savings over that time.

It assumes more than $1 trillion in cuts to a category known as “other mandatory” programs — but doesn’t specify what those cuts would be.

You get the picture.  I assume a group of third-graders could create a more serious budget.  Seriously.

And Krugman adds some context:

Think about what these budgets would do if you ignore the mysterious trillions in unspecified spending cuts and revenue enhancements. What you’re left with is huge transfers of income from the poor and the working class, who would see severe benefit cuts, to the rich, who would see big tax cuts. And the simplest way to understand these budgets is surely to suppose that they are intended to do what they would, in fact, actually do: make the rich richer and ordinary families poorer.

But this is, of course, not a policy direction the public would support if it were clearly explained. So the budgets must be sold as courageous efforts to eliminate deficits and pay down debt — which means that they must include trillions in imaginary, unexplained savings. [emphasis mine]

Yep– I think Krugman nails it.  There may be some actual adults in the Republican party, but they are sure not in the GOP House caucus.

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