Hoisted from Comments: Robert Waldmann vs. David Gergen
Worth Reading #1: Tom Ricks on Jane Mayer on Marc Thiessen (It Would Be a Real Mitzvah to Shut the Washington Post Right Now for March 28, 2010)

Worth Reading, Mostly Economics for March 27, 2010

  • One of the great tragedies of the health care bill was that it was passed on Sunday night rather than a Monday, which meant that Bobo had twenty-our hours to sober up before writing his column Tuesday. So what we get is less emo screed and more the smooth sounds of the Snooze Hour: "Nobody knows how this bill will work out. It is an undertaking exponentially more complex than the Iraq war, for example." What the f--- does that even mean? Does it mean we’ll be sending troops into health care clinics to avoid civil war in five years? Update. Martin nails it: "It’s more complex only if you don’t think of Iraqis as people."
  • To be clear, I don’t think it’s even entirely coherent to talk about liberalism versus conservatism as the fundamental political/philosophy conflict in the United States anymore. What I call mainstream American political conservatism is really just incoherent, violent rage. And the nominal liberalism of the Democratic Party under Barack Obama is so measured, heavily qualified and internally diverse (spanning the ideological spectrum from Dennis Kucinich to Bart Stupak) that it can barely be called liberalism at all. The real split in this country now is between people (left or right) who are actually concerned with solving problems and people (left or right, Code Pink or Tea Party) who just feel like blindly emoting. Although, of course, blindly emoting without resorting to violence, vandalism and death threats is obviously vastly preferable to what we’re currently seeing from the Tea Party fringes.
  • Clark Stooksbury: "Last week, Glenn Reynolds gave a lecture at the Howard Baker Center on political civility. According to the student newspaper Reynolds pontificated about the 'need to find a balance of disagreement and argument while not crossing the line of pure nastiness. . .' Imagine my surprise to see Reynolds speculating that, 'Possibly Obama just hates Israel and hates Jews. That’s plausible — certainly nothing in his actions suggests otherwise, really.' Obama’s crime is that he supposedly neglected to have a photo-op with Bibi Netanyahu, or something like that. I’m not sure what to say in response to that other than to note that Reynolds is apparently insane, which is to say that he is a rightwinger in the age of Obama.
  • Matt Taibbi: "One expects... Goldman Sachs to pull out the “Well, we weren’t the only thieves!” argument.... But I almost couldn’t believe my eyes as I read through Dolan’s retort and it dawned on me that he was actually going to use the “We weren’t the only child molesters!” excuse. Dolan must have very roomy man-robes, because it seems to me you’d need a set of balls like two moons of Jupiter to say such a thing in public and expect it to fly…. We don’t permit countries that harbor terrorists to participate in international society, but the Catholic Church — an organization that has been proven over and over again to systematically enable child molesters, right up now to the level of the Pope — is given a free pass. In fact the Church is not only not sanctioned in any serious way, it gets to retain its outrageous tax-exempt status, which makes its systematic child abuse, in this country at least, a government-subsidized activity..."
  • Matthew Yglesias: "[T]hink about Barry Goldwater’s 1964 Presidential campaign. In ‘64, the GOP establishment felt that Goldwater was too radical.... Goldwater got the nod. And... Goldwater got crushed. And... it proved to be counterproductive. The 1964 landslide led directly to Medicare, Medicaid, Title I education spending, and the “war on poverty.” In the 45 years since that fateful campaign, the conservative movement managed to gain total control over the Republican Party.... But it’s only very partially rolled back one aspect of the Johnson administration’s domestic policy... the conservative movement from 1964-2009 was a giant failure. By nominating Goldwater, it invited a massive progressive win that all the subsequent conservative wins were unable to undue. But the orthodox conservative tradition of ‘64 is that it was a great success that laid the groundwork for the triumphs to come. Which is to say that... it can’t think rigorously about its own goals...
  • Ed Andrews: "We shouldn't be surprised that David Frum got fired from the American Enterprise Institute for violating the Republican party line on health care... the GOP has been hostile for years to to mavericks, independent thinkers and, frankly, almost any kind of thinkers.... The Republican arguments on health care, the economic stimulus and financial regulation have become so convoluted and degraded that they only make sense from the perspective of raw political strategy and Tea Party pandering. What holds the Republican Party together isn't anything remotely like a coherent philosophy or set of values. The only things holding it together are group-think based on a cold calculation of how best to block the Democrats and rile the base. It's an intellectual circling of the wagons. Small wonder that it becomes oppressive.... Republican leaders think their strategy since the 2008 election has been a great success... the Young Turks are among the most fervent of the hard-liners..."
  • Leonhardt: "It was tempting to let the banks fail. They certainly deserved it. But big bank failures often cause terrible damage. Credit dries up... a vicious cycle of falling asset prices and job losses. That is what began to happen in 2008.... It was a maddening story line: the government helped the banks get rich by looking the other way during good times and saved them from collapse during bad times. Just as an oil company can profit from pollution, Wall Street profited from weak regulation, at the expense of society. If there has been a theme to the Obama administration’s disparate domestic policies, it has been to invest more in public goods.... To reduce the odds of a future crisis, the Obama plan would take three basic steps. First, regulators would receive more authority to monitor.... Second... financial firms would be forced to reduce the debt they take on and to hold more capital.... Finally... the government would be allowed to seize a collapsing financial firm..."
  • Jen Psaki: "Faced with an unprecedented level of obstruction in the Senate, the President announced his intention to recess appoint fifteen nominees to fill critical administration posts. While the President respects the critical role the Senate plays in the appointment process, he was no longer willing to let another month go by with key economic positions unfilled, especially at a time when our country is recovering from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression."
  • Giles Whittell writes: "America’s conservatives were in open disarray yesterday after the abrupt sacking of a leading Republican for daring to blame his party for “the most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s”. David Frum... said that his departure was forced by a reaction from donors to the AEI.... [M]ainstream figures... are being forced to the right by purity tests on key issues.... Mitt Romney has been forced to condemn the health reforms... even though it is based largely on a Bill he shepherded into state law.... The backlash... has not yet descended to shooting but it turned so nasty this week.... No senior Republican has dared to criticise Mrs Palin for urging her supporters to “reload” and take aim at vulnerable Democrats... rifle crosshairs on her website. This may be because, as Mr Frum said yesterday, “the elite isn’t leading any more; it’s trapped”... Mr Frum and his allies must find a way to reassert control of their party or get used to irrelevance.
  • Felix Salmon: "On January 30, 2007, Jamie Mai wrote an email to his partners Charlie Ledley and Ben Hockett. "If a broad range of CDO spreads starts to widen," he said, "it means that a material global financial clusterf--- is likely occurring." On January 31, 2007, a broad range of CDO spreads started to widen, dramatically. The long-feared meltdown was upon us all.... The Big Short is not the story of the crisis, as the crisis is commonly understood.... Instead, Lewis has found a different story... the story of what used to be called the "subprime crisis" before it metastasized into something much larger and more dangerous than that. And it's also, like all Michael Lewis tales, a human story, which takes us deep inside unique characters like Steve Eisman and Mike Burry.... Amazingly, despite the fact that the book is so one-sided, it also functions as a peerless guide... probably the single best piece of financial journalism ever written.
  • Lewis writes: "On May 19, 2005, Mike Burry... bought $60 million of credit-default swaps from Deutsche Bank—$10 million each on six different bonds.... It surprised him that Deutsche Bank didn’t seem to care which bonds he picked to bet against. From their point of view, so far as he could tell, all subprime-mortgage bonds were the same. The price of insurance was driven not by any independent analysis but by the ratings placed on the bond by Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s.... Anyone who even glanced at the prospectuses could see that there were many critical differences between one triple-B bond and the next.... Once again they shocked and delighted him: Goldman Sachs e-mailed him a great long list of crappy mortgage bonds to choose from.... He could pick from the list without alerting them to the depth of his knowledge. It was as if you could buy flood insurance on the house in the valley for the same price as flood insurance on the house on the mountaintop..."
  • Julian Sanchez writes: "[T]he cocktail party attack itself might be a form of projection on the part of folks who are, at some level, acutely aware that their own careers depend on hewing pretty close to a party line. But I think there’s something else going on here too. One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts... can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted.... To prevent breach, the internal dissident needs to be resituated in the enemy camp. The Cocktail Party move serves this function particularly well because it simultaneously plays on the specific kind of cultural ressentiment that so much conservative rhetoric now seems designed to stoke..."
  • Felix Salmon: "@hblodget's business model: Take a story about M&A fees associated with AIG. Illustrate with 2 hot babes kissing. http://bit.ly/dexECw"
  • Greenwald writes: "From the beginning of the War on Terror, Cass Sunstein turned himself into one of the most reliable Democratic cheerleaders for Bush/Cheney radicalism and their assault on the Constitution and the rule of law... in 2005, Sunstein became the hero of the Bush-following Right when, in the wake of revelations that the Bush administration was illegally eavesdropping on Americans, he quickly proclaimed that Bush was within his legal rights to spy without warrants in violation of FISA.... In a March, 2006 Washington Post article, Sunstein solidified his credential as Leading Democratic-Law-Professor/Bush-Defender by mocking the notion that Bush had committed crimes while in office.... Along with TNR's Jeffrey Rosen, it was Sunstein who took a leading role in telling Democrats that John Roberts was a good choice for the Court.... Sunstein's view that Roe v. Wade was "wrongly decided"...
  • She writes: "When Tom Grimes lost his job...15 months ago, he called his congressman..., for help getting government health care. Then he found a new full-time occupation: Tea Party activist.... organized a local group... statewide coalition... “bus czar” Web site to marshal protesters to Washington on short notice. This month, he mobilized 200 other Tea Party activists to the local office of the same congressman to protest what he sees as the government’s takeover of health care. Mr. Grimes is one of many... they had lost their jobs, or perhaps watched their homes plummet in value, and they found common cause in the Tea Party’s fight for lower taxes and smaller government... a number of its members acknowledge that they are relying on government programs for help. Mr. Grimes, who receives Social Security, has filled the back seat... with the literature... Glenn Beck’s “Arguing With Idiots”... Frederic Bastiat’s “The Law,” which denounces public benefits as “false philanthropy”"...
  • Robert Pear writes: "President Obama will soon name Dr. Donald M. Berwick, an iconoclastic scholar of health policy, to run Medicare and Medicaid.... Dr. Berwick, a pediatrician, is president of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Cambridge, Mass. He has repeatedly challenged doctors and hospitals to provide better care at a lower cost.... If confirmed by the Senate, Dr. Berwick would have a huge plate of responsibilities under the new health care law. The law, signed Tuesday by Mr. Obama, will expand Medicaid to cover 16 million more people, squeeze nearly a half-trillion dollars out of Medicare in the next 10 years and establish many demonstration projects to test innovative ways of delivering health care. Dr. Berwick's nomination would be subject to Senate confirmation..."
  • He writes: "Mitt Romney continues to spin and dodge implausibly away from his legacy and credibility: 'Romney reiterated his position after signing nearly 1,000 copies of his book at a store near his vacation home in San Diego early this week. ”I like what we have in Massachusetts, despite some flaws,” Romney said. ”But what I see in Obamacare is a very different piece of legislation — and one that followed a very different track. In our case, our bill was carried out in a bipartisan basis.”' But of course the Affordable Care Act would have been carried out on a bipartisan basis had prominent outside advocates like Mitt Romney urged the likes of Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Judd Gregg, George Voinovich, Dick Lugar, and Chuck Grassley to participate constructively in the process."
  • He writes: "Mike Konczal notes that if we’d had the Dodd Bill structure in place in 2005, and the Consumer Financial Protection Agency had tried to take action against mortgage abuses it would have found itself overruled by the Financial Stability Oversight Council. But of course this isn’t just a problem for the CFPA, it goes to the heard of whether the FSOC will really work. I have my doubts. It seems to me that the common thread running between the more stable banking systems in history (Canada today, the US before the mid-eighties, etc.) is that they’re pretty cozy cartels. Regulated cartels, yes, but that’s how cartels work—strict rules and guaranteed profits. But I don’t see any real indication that any policymakers in the United States want to try to create a banking cartel."
  • He writes: "[W]hen it comes to being a speaker -- the presiding officer of the House of Representatives and the leader of its majority party -- Pelosi is without peer. No speaker in the past century has played such a key role in enacting major reforms. No speaker since Henry Clay, who wielded the gavel in the 1810s and '20s, has had so great an effect on American life..."
  • ANSA.IT reports: "A 2,000-year-old snack-bar in the Ancient Roman city of Pompeii will 'open for business' once more this Sunday... the Thermopolium (snack-bar) of Vetutius Placidus... a typical Roman snack of the type once served to customers. The shop takes its name from electoral graffiti engraved on the outside of the shop, calling on passersby to vote for the candidate Vetutius Placidus.... But months of detailed excavation and preservation work have now finished and all visitors will soon be able to enter the thermopolium and get an idea of what a typical Ancient Roman snack-bar was like... a typical, decorated counter... where customers stood to enjoy a quick lunch... glass dolia, or jars... to hold food.... The thermopolium also boasted a triclinium (dining area) with couches, for those of its customers who wanted to eat in the reclining Greek style..."
  • Bartlett writes: "That's what some Republican health policy experts are saying now that it's too late to matter..t the main Republican expert quoted in the AP article linked to above is Mark Pauly, who is currently listed as an adjunct fellow of AEI. A quick Google News search turned up no instances in which Prof. Pauly noted the similarities between the Obama plan and those Republicans have advocated for years.... I certainly don't think anyone at AEI told Pauly to keep his mouth shut about this. No one needed to. I'm sure he understood perfectly well that it would be counterproductive to Republicans had this point been made publicly..."