Visual source: Newseum
When I listen to current discussions of the federal budget, the message I hear sounds like this: We’re in crisis! We must take drastic action immediately! And we must keep taxes low, if not actually cut them further!
You have to wonder: If things are that serious, shouldn’t we be raising taxes, not cutting them?
My description of the budget debate is in no way an exaggeration.
Every few years, someone tries to tap the widespread American obsession with the Civil War, and transform its history into pop entertainment. Some of these projects, like Ken Burns’s 1990 documentary, “The Civil War,” come to canonical glory. Others, like Disney’s proposed American history theme park, meet bitter defeat. It was inevitable that someone in 2011, for the 150th anniversary of the war, would roll the cultural dice again and try to sell Civil War buffs an iPad app.
on a reluctant Mitch Daniels:
As he deliberates, calls come into his office, and the offices of his political advisers and friends, with words of encouragement. He has drawn praise from a number of conservative commentators. They see him as someone who can espouse conservative ideas but who believes the GOP must avoid appearing harsh or braying.
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush told a Jacksonville audience in February that, among prospective GOP candidates, Daniels was the “only one who sees the stark perils and will offer real detailed proposals.”
Social issues would hurt him with his base, the Bush years would hurt him with everyone else. But a weak GOP field continues to drive casting a larger net.
Even before disturbances in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere, economists expected oil prices to increase from their September lows of $75 a barrel to more than $100 a barrel by this summer.
Economic recovery is pushing up gasoline demand and jet travel; President Obama's restrictions on offshore drilling are curtailing U.S. oil supplies; electric vehicles and hybrids won't appreciably dent U.S. gasoline consumption before the end of this decade; and Chinese oil imports are growing 10% a year. All Middle East strife did was accelerate the price surge.
on rhetorical false choices:
Praising Obama’s George Washington University budget speech earlier this month, Hertzberg said he was relieved that the president did not descend into the worst kind of false choicery. “I know it’s silly,” Hertzberg wrote, “but I was a little worried we might get something uncomfortably akin to ‘We must reject both extremes, those who say we shouldn’t help the old and the sick and those who say we should.’” Me, too; I’m glad Obama didn’t go near that sort of thing.
But if there are false false choices, there are also real false choices. And here I should acknowledge my personal stake in this debate. Twenty years ago, I wrote a book called “Why Americans Hate Politics” arguing that liberals and conservatives often imposed a series of false choices on voters that prevented them from expressing their true preferences. Many voters preferred an intelligent “both/and” politics to an artificially constrained “either/or” approach.
The classic case for me was the phony division of Americans into “feminist” and “pro-family” camps. I noted that most Americans accepted the equality of men and women but were concerned about how new work arrangements were affecting family life.
Here's the Hertzberg
One of the mysteries of the Obama Presidency has been Obama’s inability—or disinclination, I’m not sure which—to give sustained emotional sustenance to a certain slice of his supporters. I don’t mean the “Democratic base,” especially the institutional “interest group” base. And I don’t mean the disillusioned left, which is easily, almost perpetually disillusioned because it has such an ample supply of illusions. (A lot of lefties, notwithstanding their scorn for “the system,” seem to have an implicit naive faith in the workability of the mechanisms of American governance. Hence their readiness to blame the disappointments of the Administration’s first two years mainly on Obama’s alleged moral or character failings—cowardice, spinelessness, insincerity, duplicity, what have you.) Mainly, I guess, the slice I’m talking about is of people like me: liberals who continue to respect and admire Obama; who fully appreciate the disaster he inherited and the horrendous difficulty of enacting a coherent agenda even when your own party “controls” both Houses of Congress; who think his substantive record is pretty good under the circumstances; who dislike some of the distasteful compromises he has made but aren’t sure we wouldn’t have done the same in his shoes (etc.—you get the idea); but who are puzzled that our eloquent, writerly President seems to have done so little to educate the public about his own vision and to contrast it with that of the Republican right—which is to say, the Republicans.