Thursday February 17th 2011
"Mr Herbert wanted to say that American democracy is broken because it's been hijacked by the rich. This is one of approximately five columns liberal pundits phone in when they are uninspired or feeling lazy."
Absolutely one of my complaints against the man and why I no longer read his column. Bob Herbert just spouts off a column about the need for the government to "create jobs" and to "make job creation a priority" and to "listen to the middle class and focus on jobs" without offering anything resembling a specific policy the government could actually do to create jobs. He then occasionally breaks the monotony of "Why doesn't the government want people to be employed?" columns with bland "Rich people shouldn't have more influence than poor people" columns.
To be clear, I agree that we need jobs, and I'm really not a fan of how billionaires have a dramatically louder voice than their fellow citizens. My complaint is that I never end up learning anything from his columns, and he is so devoted to so few topics that he sometimes has to tenuously link the major news story of the week to one of his pet issues.
To put what I wrote above more eloquently: Looking at Japan's situation on a per capita basis makes their GDP situation look a bit better but their debt situation look far worse.
noahpinion: You're right about Japanese GDP per capita growth. However, there are two ways of looking at Japan.
You can view it as a country as a whole, and say that GDP growth has been stagnant or negative 2 decades and debt has been increasing rapidly.
Or, you can view it on a per capita basis, and say that GDP growth per capita has been reasonably good and debt per capita has exploded.
I would argue that no matter how you slice it, Japan's situation has more or less continuously gotten worse over the past 2 decades, especially with the coming aging of the country and unwillingness to permit more immigration.
"I would save this date as a snapshot in time marking the very moment in his presidency when Obama irretrievably lost the independent vote."
Don't be too sure. The Republicans can give Obama a massive assist with independent voters by proposing to fix the Medicare and Social Security funding gaps by cutting taxes. I mean, cutting taxes leads to more revenue, of course...
Although, now that there's a larger generation of rich and middle class African-Americans, I'd like to see affirmative action switch from being race-based to income-based (Barack Obama's children don't need a boost when it comes to their future careers).
It'd allow disadvantaged minorities to continue to receive most of the benefits so long as they're worse-off than other groups, but with the advantage of helping poor whites as well (which would remove some of the political opposition I feel).
Soren's point isn't that the U.S. isn't unequal. His point is that a solid proportion of our citizenry was enslaved for many generations. When you rob a family of its rights as human beings for generations, it's really tough for future generations of that family to "catch up" to other families who have accumulated wealth for generations.
How you interpret that fact is up to you. Right wingers will interpret it as stating that being not doing so bad on income inequality, given our history, and liberals should be less whiny.
My interpretation is that the analysis confirms my long-held belief that the effects of slavery are enduring in all societies. THEREFORE, I would argue that this paper argues for continued affirmative action. Even with 40 years of affirmative action ("reverse discrimination" to some) that may seem to some "like forever," this paper illustrates that 200+ years of slavery and oppression are not undone by a *modest* boost in the job and academic prospects of disadvantaged minorities for less than 50 years.
The historical example that comes to mind is Bangladesh in 2007, when the military overthrew a corrupt but democratically elected government to general cheers. Voting was suspended and a caretaker government was appointed to root out corruption.
In the end, democracy was restored peacefully, but the Awami League (one of the corrupt political parties) won election.
Still, even when the government is democratically elected, coups d'etat can have popular support.
I'll just add two more points.
1. By basic math, as the pool of potential students increases, the top 50 colleges and universities will have to reject more applicants simply due to limited space. We've not only had rapid population growth, but also a rise in the proportion of the population that wants to go to college, and in addition to those two forces, we're now accepting more foreign students than ever. Universities can only expand enrollment by so much. Basic math dictates that a smaller proportion of the population will be able to fit into the top 50 schools, and so it's natural for those top universities to demand more money given the increased demand and relatively unchanging supply of spots in each class.
2. It's very important to remember that a major issue of affordability of college is the degree that these students ultimately get. College is very affordability for future engineering and computer science graduates. College is very unaffordable for future Women's Studies graduates. Some students at my medical school have $190,000 in debt, but they're not in nearly as much trouble as a Fine Arts graduate with $50,000 in debt. Lumping all college students together irregardless of major makes no sense when their financial prospects after graduation are so different.
The problem with college has never been in getting high school graduates to enroll. We've been among the top 10 in the world in terms of percentage of high school graduates who enter college. What's really been our issue is getting most of those students to get a degree.
Affordability is an issue, as surveys have repeatedly found, although as RestrainedRadical points out, if you survey a college dropout and ask if he dropped out because of financial reasons or because he wasn't smart and disciplined enough to finish a degree, he'll almost always choose the former reason, regardless of how true it is.
In other words: The Economist isn't that interested in Berlusconi's morality as a husband. The newspaper is highlighting this case because it continues the narrative of Berlusconi breaking laws and avoiding punishment both in the judicial system and electorally.
J. Kemp - The Economist coverage of Berlusconi is not just because he has extra-marital affairs. Plenty of leaders have extra-marital affairs. What makes Berlusconi "special" is that up till now he has been using his office to prevent prosecutors from putting him on trial for "traditional" corruption. Now, he is using that power to protect himself from being tried for prostitution and sex for an underage girl. In other words, there's a big difference between a leader having an affair with a 30 year old woman and not using his office improperly, versus a Prime Minister using his office to shield himself from prostitution charges, in addition to corruption charges that have dogged him for over a decade.
Lastly, while we're talking about imperfections while establishing a representative government, we have a constitution that explicitly described black people as only counting as 3/5ths of a citizen.
So you really don't need a perfectly enlightened Constitution and a perfectly enlightened constituency to establish a democracy. Our country did fight a civil war *in part* because the notion that black people are equal to white people was just so darn controversial. So even if I were to accept all of your generalizations about Arab people, our very non-Arab Founding Fathers didn't exactly hold completely enlightened views and made a representative government work.
Heck, there are plenty of Americans who believe 9/11 was an inside job and/or that Barack Obama is not an American citizen who was born in Hawaii, despite a Certificate of Live Birth issued by the state of Hawaii and two newspaper article mentioning the birth of a Barack H. Obama (which is kind of a rare name in Hawaii)...and the fact that his mother was an American citizen.
Doublehelix, if I recall correctly, back when the U.S. government was first created, women were treated barely better than property, black people WERE property, and to vote you had to be a landowning white male. Yet we have a successful democracy, do we not?
At this point, President Obama has proposed the insignificant $100 million cut in executive department budgets, and Republicans have, within weeks, backed off their pledge to cut $100 billion and are instead settling for a $32 billion cut out of our $3+ trillion budget (details are still being worked out).
The idea that either side has put forth a real plan to shrink the size of government is laughable.
Doublehelix wrote: "Once again, the Economist can't help demagogueing Republicans and policies that tend to shrink big government"
All Hail the Republican plan to cut $32 billion from this year's budget that has a projected $1.4 trillion deficit while denouncing Gates' plan to cut money from the defense budget over the next few years.
I can see the big government shrinking before my very eyes!
What I really hate about arguments against gay marriage is that they act as if there are no examples of successful societies with gay marriage. They keep talking about societal breakdowns resulting allowing gays to marry using philosophical reasons and act as though there are no counter-examples that exist. Gay marriage MUST lead to societal breakdown!
Meanwhile, there are several countries who do better than the U.S. on the UN Human Development Index that allow gay marriage. In addition, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Vermont are American states that have allowed gay marriage without allowing a man to marry his puppy or devolving into Mad Max post-apocalyptic societies that feature cannibalism.
If you want to strengthen and protect marriage in this country, then I'm with you. I really feel like divorce has a myriad of negative effects, in addition to the emotional damage wrought on all parties including children. In particular, the need to support two sets of housing, as well as splitting children from one of their parents at least 50% of the time, is responsible for a lot of the deterioration we see in the wellbeing of middle and lower class families (who have a higher divorce rate than those in the upper income classes). The money for dad's or mom's separate housing and food could have been saved for their children's health and education, for example.
However, the idea that preventing gays from marrying even remotely comes close to addressing the issues in this country stemming from a decline in the issue of marriage is nonsensical, since the divorce rate has been rising for decades, long before gay marriage was even a political possibility.
I just saw W.W.'s post on the court case.
Disregard my previous post.
k.a.gardner: Which reminds me! I am shocked, shocked that we have not heard one word from DiA about yesterday's ruling -
That's because DiA already commented on a Virginian judge's ruling that the mandate is unconstitutional. In the end, this is going to come down to the Supreme Court, and the two issues are the constitutionality of the mandate and the viability of the law without the mandate (the bill's authors forgot to include a clause stating that even if the mandate is found unconstitutional, the rest of the law should still be in effect.) Personally, I think the mandate is constitutional and if mandate is found unconstitutional, the reform becomes unworkable, but in the end the Supreme Court has to make the decision, and it's pointless to speculate until then.
To paraphrase what others have said: A run now seems premature only if he views winning as the sole possible benefit of running for election.
However, given the national exposure a nearly successful Presidential or Vice-Presidential candidate can get, there are other benefits to election that even come to those who lose. For example, McCain's chances in 2008 were greatly aided by his nearly successful run in 2000. As Sarah Palin and John Edwards (all too adeptly) demonstrated, once the media decides you merit a microphone, you can literally quit your day job and still have them eager to interview and talk to you. Edwards would still be in the news if he weren't thoroughly disgraced, and Sarah Palin became a millionaire for Pete's sake.
If Huntsman runs and loses in the 2012 Primary, either being picked to be VP nominee or being mentioned on the VP shortlist boosts his profile and sets the stage for 2016. Also, he can't raise his name recognition or hit up wealthy donors in Texas if he's ambassador to China. I view his announcement more as, "I want to win in 2016" than "I expect to be in the White House in 2013."
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