There is a famous quote, often misattributed to Churchill, that if you’re not a liberal at 20 you have no heart, but if you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 40 you have no brain. Given my political history, I’ve already shown myself to be heartless. Whether I shall prove myself to be brainless as well remains to be seen. To quote an magic eight ball: outlook not good. It did occur to me the other day, however, that despite not following the trajectory set forth above, I have changed my mind on a lot of political issues over the years. To give a very non-exhaustive list, at one time or another I have supported each of the following: Continue reading
Robert Samuelson’s The Great Inflation and Its Aftermath tells the story of America’s battle with double digit inflation in the 1970s. As Samuelson tells the story, in the post-WWII period economists and politicians began to think that they could use the insights of Keynesian economics to fine tune the economy. According to Keynes, there was a fundamental economic trade off between inflation and unemployment. By using its control over the money supply, then, the government could induce a small amount of inflation, which would lead to lower unemployment and hence higher overall output.
The problem was that while inflation did in fact lead to a drop in unemployment, the effect was only temporary. At first an infusion of cash into an economy would boost demand for goods and services and lower interest rates (as people mistook the increase in dollars with an increase in wealth). Eventually, however, people would begin to catch on to what was happening, at which point a higher level of inflation would be needed to achieve the same effect. By the early 1970s, the United States was facing both high unemployment, high interest rates, and high levels of inflation, something which according to standard Keynesian theory should have been impossible. Continue reading
Readers are most likely familiar with Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s chief of staff (he of the Chicago Way). Some of you may also know that Mr. Emanuel’s brother, Ari, is reportedly the basis for the character Ari Gold from the T.V. series Entourage.
It turns out there is also a third brother, Ezekiel Emanuel. He is to all appearances a bit more low key than the other two. Having obtained an MD and PhD in political philosophy and a degree in chemistry from Oxford, Mr. Emanuel spends his time penning books and articles opposing assisted suicide and explaining how to use vouchers to achieve universal health care.
Oh, and he’s also just been appointed an advisor to President Obama on health care policy. The whole thing is like something out of a Wes Anderson movie, absent the dysfunction.
So people keep writing me asking what I think about the whole Obama commencement thing. I’m flattered. My opinion, in brief, is that I think Notre Dame’s having him was a mistake, basically for the reasons Rick has laid out here, but I think that the reaction to the invite has been over the top and out of proportion to the issue involved. The sheer passion on both sides of the debate suggests, to me at least, that the controversy is really a proxy for some deeper political disagreements among Catholics. And as Forrest Gump was wont to say, that’s all I have to say about that.
Anyway, the whole matter got me reminiscing about the various commencements I’ve attended over the years.
Leaving aside minor events, the first commencement I attended was my graduation from college. Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg was the chosen speaker, and chose to make the focus of his remarks the need for additional research funding for his department, and the advisability of the state adopting an income tax in order to make that happen. The speech also contained the line “When you tell people you went to Texas, no one will care how the football team is doing . . . at least not if they are an adult.” This got a sizable boo from the audience. Continue reading
RNC chairman Michael Steele has come in for a lot of criticism for a number of seemingly boneheaded comments on everything from abortion to the environment to the Republican Party generally. What people fail to realize, however, is that all these statements were actually part of a cunning plan by Steele to see who his true friends were:
During last year’s election, much was made, both positively and negatively, of Barack Obama’s past work as a community organizer. Obama himself highlighted his community organizing, drawing parallels between his time organizing in Chicago and his hopes as a potential President. Others were more critical.
The New York Times had an editorial Monday arguing that Barack Obama ought to give attention in crafting his stimulus/public works program to the plight of teen workers. As the Times puts it:
Young people who fail to find early jobs are more likely to remain underemployed or unemployed into their 20s and beyond. The risks are compounded for low-income youth, who are more likely to leave school and have other problems when they do not find work.
According to a recent analysis by Andrew Sum, an economist at Northeastern University, the percentage of teens employed has fallen from nearly 45 percent in 2000 to about 30 percent today. That is almost 10 times the decrease for adult workers, who are increasingly taking jobs that once went to teenagers.
The situation is far worse in low-income minority areas, where the youth employment rate appears to be hovering not much above 10 percent. That will only get worse as the economy contracts. And even when the recession ends, it could take an additional two or three years before youth employment begins to recover.
The lame duck period of any politician’s career can be a revealing time. So long as a politician faces the prospect of re-election, there will always be suspicion that his actions are less a reflection of his true beliefs than they are of what he calculates will be to his political advantage. Once the specter of re-election is removed, however, a politician becomes more free to let his true convictions (or lack therefore) show forth. History provides numerous examples of this. And now we have another:
A last-minute Bush administration plan to grant sweeping new protections to health care providers who oppose abortion and other procedures on religious or moral grounds has provoked a torrent of objections, including a strenuous protest from the government agency that enforces job-discrimination laws.
The proposed rule would prohibit recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses and other health care workers who refuse to perform or to assist in the performance of abortions or sterilization procedures because of their “religious beliefs or moral convictions.”
It would also prevent hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices and drugstores from requiring employees with religious or moral objections to “assist in the performance of any part of a health service program or research activity” financed by the Department of Health and Human Services.
President-elect Barack Obama is poised to move swiftly to reverse actions that President Bush took using executive authority, and his transition team is reviewing limits on stem cell research and the expansion of oil and gas drilling, among other issues, members of the team said Sunday.
“There’s a lot that the president can do using his executive authority without waiting for Congressional action, and I think we’ll see the president do that,” John D. Podesta, a top transition leader, said Sunday. “He feels like he has a real mandate for change. We need to get off the course that the Bush administration has set.” Continue reading
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