Okay, the readers are getting restless about the Egypt-related Bush-praising. So how about some bashing? Yeah, that's the ticket. Via Suburban Guerilla, a CBPP report into the Bush administration's plan to make it harder for poor people to get better when they get sick. Also known as "Medicaid reform." The Republican Party's longstanding war on the working poor is truly a sight to behold. The very poorest usually get shielded from these sorts of cuts, because you trim anti-poverty spending by trimming around the margins. This sort of thing not only leads to minor problems like illness and death, but creates de facto super-high marginal tax rates for low income people, thereby creating a massive disincentive toward work and savings.
The joy of it is that all this is done so as to be able to afford tax cuts for the rich aimed at increasing incentives to work and save. Now that's what I call economic policy! The most striking thing about it is that while any given measure of this sort always attracts a certain amount of controversy, and a big deal like slashing Medicaid should even lead some Republicans to pipe up with dissent, the basic orientation of this strategy is essentially never questioned by any GOP elected officials or, as far as I can tell, prominent commentators. But it simply makes no sense on any terms other than sheer desire to redistribute wealth upwards.
Fred Barnes writes the article I've been waiting for for a long time. The argument from a conservative that Dick Cheney should run for president. But it's not actually the article I've been waiting for. Instead, it's a case on the merits for Cheney. That's fair enough, but it's less interesting than the purely tactical point that Bush is going to start suffering from crippling case of lame duck syndrome very soon unless he can at least implicitly designate a successor. You can't keep your ducks in a row if the only thing the ducks no for sure is that you won't be leading the pack for very long. Things will only get worse if various White House aides start peeling off to go work for rival primary candidates. Bush needs a successor and, realistically, Cheney is the only viable option.
Credit Where Due!
I clicked over to The Corner to see who was complaining about liberal bloggers failing to acknowledge the weekend's positive developments in Egypt, and what did I find? Not only is nobody complaining, virtually nobody is acknowledging the weekend's positive developments in Egypt! All you get is Jonah Goldberg quoting Jackson Diehl. Look, people, get excited! Yes, it's but a tentative step and things could still all work out poorly, but still, this is a pretty unambiguous success for Bush's second term freedom kick. It's also a stunning refutation of those of us who argued that he'd never follow through on his lofty rhetoric. Give the man some props.
And not just to poke fun, but it's actually important that props be given. Bush has, historically, gotten a lot of praise for his lofty rhetoric. He's also been rather diffident about actually doing something about it. But he decided to go do something. Test the waters, so to speak. If doing the right thing winds up just being met with stony silence, then there's little reason to think it'll be the start of a trend. But it should start a trend....
The Weekly Standard likewise has no Egypt coverage. What's happened to the right? Are you all on Mubarak's payroll?
The Lunatic Next Door
Give this a read. Then keep in mind that the man who says, "You know, I can fly an F-15, put two nukes on ‘em and I’ll make one pass. We won’t have to worry about Syria anymore," isn't just some crazy guy somewhere. He's not even Time's certified "blogger of the year." No. No siree. He's a United States Congressman. I mean, obviously the fact that the House G.O.P. congress is full of crazy peopel who don't know what they're talking about and are busy advocating that our government kill millions of innocent people pales in comparison to, say, whether Whoopi Goldberg is a bad person, but one might think that a properly functioning liberal movement would succeed in making a bigger deal out of this.
So to recap: Representative Sam Johnson (R-TX) believes that the United States should launch a nuclear strike against Syria. Anyone out there on the right have any comments? Really. A nuclear war. A member of congress. Kind of a big deal.
Imitation Sports Blogging
I must object to the obsequious coverage the TV commentators were giving to Gilbert Arenas during last night's 110-108 loss to the Kings. Yes, obviously, he's a very good basketball player. And yes, obviously, 43 points is a lot of points. But when you take 37 percent of your team's shots, scoring 40 percent of your team's points is hardly a new landmark in offensive efficiency. When you shoot 4 for 7 from the free throw line and your team loses the game by two points, you're screwing up. Mike Bibby, a bona fide superstar, scored five fewer points off nine fewer field goal attempts. He had more than double Arenas' assists, four steals to Arenas' two, fouled the opposition one fewer time, and shot 7-8 from the free throw line. Not coincidentally, the team he was playing for won. That is a great game.
UPDATE: Spelling error fixed. To be clear, the point here isn't to get all down on Arenas. "Not as good as Mike Bibby," is hardly the worst thing you could say about a basketball player. The point was directed against the people covering the game for Comcast Sports who were falling all over each other to praise the genius of Arenas while saying basically nothing about Bibby's more well-rounded, more professional, and ultimately more victory-producing play. And, yes, Larry Hughes wasn't playing. But neither was Stojakavic.
The gang at There Is No Crisis takes a good close look at USA Next. Give it a read, I'll say more on this later.
For now let me note what my friends on the right will no doubt note, which is that the argumentum ad hominem (and its close cousin ad funderam) are not, strictly speaking, relevant to the policy debate over privatization. That's all true. Nor is the fact that privatizers lie, constantly, about virtually every aspect of the Social Security situation strictly relevant. Nor is the fact that privatization's leading proponents in the electoral arena refuse to discuss the details of their policy proposal, strictly relevant to assessing the merits of the proposal. With all that in mind, I've done a number of pointy-headed posts about the issues laying out where I stand.
Nevertheless, lots of people don't follow pointy-headed arguments about the issues all that closely. Those people might be intetested to know that the privatization movement is being heavily financed by individuals with a direct financial stake in its success, and that the political professionals taking the privateers' money feel that the best way to sell the plan is to be dishonest about it while hiding its details from public scrutiny. Which is all a long way of saying, give it a read.
Beyond Hawks and Doves
Back when I was on Kudlow and Company ten days ago or whatever, Jeff Jarvis said something about how he was "scared of" Howard Dean's foreign policy and I was asked to respond. I said something about how I think the next few years are going to see the emergence of some new foreign policy issues on which neither I nor anyone else really knows what Dean's views are. It being television, I naturally enough didn't have a chance to explain what I mean, but it's worth spelling out.
One notable element about the recent mild reforms in Egypt is that the Muslim Brotherhood, thought by many to be Egypt's most powerful opposition grouping, won't be allowed to compete. One very big question facing us in the next few years is what to we think about things like that. I think it's a bad thing. I wouldn't support the Muslim Brotherhood, or the United Iraqi Alliance, or any other Islamist political party. Nevertheless, it seems to me that it's very important that Islamist political parties -- including anti-American ones, and including ones whose policy views I find generally abhorrant -- be allowed to compete for power in the Muslim world. To me, in fact, it would be the opportunity for such groups to gain power through the political process that is the big reason to think political reform could help combat terrorism.
I'm not going to defend that view at the moment.
Rather, I'd just like to note that it's a view I adhere to. It's a view that a lot of other people on the left adhere to. It's also a view that a lot of people on the right (Reuel Marc Gerecht and Eli Lake to name a couple) adhere to. And it's a view that a lot of people on the left think is wrong. A lot of people on the right think it's wrong, too. And most people -- on the right, on the left, and in the middle -- haven't thought about it at all. What does Howard Dean think about this? I don't know. What does George Bush think? I don't know. Peter Beinart? Don't know. Rich Lowry? Don't know. But it's a very important question.
All of which is just to say that there's a lot on the table besides whether you're a hawk or a dove. This isn't really even a question of whether you're an idealist or a realist. Democracy -- the free choice of governments -- is an ideal. But so is liberalism. Defining the national interest is a complicated empirical problem. My hope would be that with the next presidential election a long way off, we can have a public debate about some of these questions that goes beyond a simple one-dimensional spectrum of left to right.
State Boundary Reform
Robert Farley has an idea: "My favorite option would be to cut both Oregon and Washington in half, call the west half (now having Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Vancouver, Portland, Salem, and Eugene) Cascadia, and the other half (with metropolitan areas like Spokane and Pendleton) Idaho II: Revenge of the Rednecks." Technically, though, Vancouver isn't located in Oregon or Washington. There's also the small matter of the U.S. Senate to consider. Nevertheless, a tempting joke.
Investor Class Fun
Ross Douthat has a nice post debunking the "investor class" theory of the emerging conservative majority, drawing on my post from yesterday and an article by Matt Continetti. The more I think about it, the more this GOP approach seems misguided. What would really seal the Democrats' fate would be if Republicans could get culturally conservative working class African-Americans and Latinos to vote more like culturally conservative working class white people. I don't know exactly how you would bring that about, but the smallish trends in that direction between 2000 and 2004 are the real threat to liberal politics. Widespread stock ownership is, perhaps, good policy (it would depend what you had to do to get there) but as politics it should be a wash.
The Structure of Punditocratic Revolutions
I'm so used to seeing Thomas Kuhn's work name-checked and misrepresented by conservative bloviators that it hardly registers any more. But yesterday David Brooks did it not to condemn Kuhn, but to praise him. A paradigm shift indeed.