Saturday, August 27, 2011

Why liberals need to rethink housing policy (Me in TNR)

A great philosopher notes in the New Republic:

Consider a married couple making $60,000 a year. Suppose they buy a $200,000 home with a fixed-rate 30-year mortgage and $6,000 down. That’s hardly a reckless scenario. Yet if local home prices drop by ten percent, this family is $14,000 underwater. If their marriage or their furnace breaks, if someone loses a job, this couple is in real trouble. If family dislocations arise from broader economic difficulties that depress local property values, they are in even deeper trouble.

Progressives should be chastened by the history of the housing mess. We need to rethink the all-American aspiration to widespread home ownership. When our society offers no guarantees to buffer instability and risk, we need other, safer ways to support families and neighborhoods, and to promote upward mobility.
More here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Piling on: Rick Perry’s book is bad, really

Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein both review Texas Governor Rick Perry’s book, Fed Up! Our fight to save America from Washington.

Matt notes what he calls “The ten weirdest ideas” in that book. Many of Perry’s ideas are, indeed, weird, such as the claim that Al Gore is part of a conspiracy to deny global cooling. Yet if I were grading Matt’s review, I would be forced to deduct points for redundancy. I’m just not convinced that Matt digested this complex work with the kind of detailed textual analysis that (say) Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz applied in several ancient and modern languages to the Talmud….

More here

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What “tomming” really looks like

Adam Serwer rightly calls out comedian Steve Harvey, who labels Tavis Smiley and Cornel West Uncle Toms in a particularly crude way. I’ve had some tough words for West. But I think Smiley and West’s poverty tour raises important concerns that might not otherwise gain a hearing. As Adam observes, “Tomming involves deliberately advancing the arguments of the community’s dectractors in a bid for approval.” That’s just not what West and Smiley are about.

In any event, the real and alleged Uncle Toms of today can’t hold a candle to the heroes of the past. Walter Lippman shows how it’s done.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Separating the wheat from the gaffe

I think this whole "corporations are people too" tempest is a boring cheap shot against Mitt Romney. He deserves criticism for many things. Not this. More here.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Somalia charity challenge

My Somalia charity challenge to readers.

As you might have heard, western economies are hurting. One predictable consequence is the reduction of public and private giving for global health and development. People as different as Paul Farmer, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush agree on one thing: We can’t take our eye off the ball in helping people around the world who struggle for basic nutrition, economic necessities, and public health.
I don’t know how many readers follow Mark Goldberg’s terrific stuff at UN Dispatch. If you don’t, you should.  

The situation in Somalia right now, for example, is pretty dire. Now refugees face a measles epidemic, as well.

I therefore issue this challenge. If you are an author and you contribute to the United Nations FoundationDoctors without BordersUNICEF, or the International Rescue Committee, I will buy a fresh new copy of your book. This offer holds even if I already own your book, and even if the book is poorly written. And if you are too lazy to have written a book, I will buy one of my choosing and send it to the address of your choosing. You know where to find me….

Friday, August 5, 2011

Breaking--God asks Governor Perry to cancel prayer rally

More here.

Query for readers: What’s the right tit for tat for Democrats?

Many commentators rightly excoriate Republican self-avowed hostage-taking on the debt ceilingThat was only the latest and most egregious example of Republican outright or implicit abuse of legislative processes to damage the Obama presidency. Filibusters of qualified judicial nominees, anonymous holds and related holdups on distinguished officials such as CMS’s Donald Berwick belong on that list, too. The de facto imposition of a “60 vote rule” on every item of Senate business from health reform to the FAA is another. In my view, stalling tactics such as prolonged bad-faith negotiations by presumed Republican moderates fit into this category, too. These tactics reflect a basic strategic decision, by made by Senator McConnell and others, to oppose in lockstep, by any means available, every notable effort identified with the Obama presidency.

Hence my query: What should the Democrats do? More here.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Poor police response, not supposed softness towards terrorism, worsened Norway’s atrocity

Over at CAP, Eric Alterman has excoriated conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin for her misguided initial columns about Norway.  Eric is right that she rushed to judgment in blaming Islamic jihadists, and that she was too slow to correct an erroneous column. But he makes a more interesting point, too. Rubin’s arguments about this atrocity don’t make sense, even on its own terms. Her arguments wouldn’t have been very sensible, even if the killer really had been a jihadi terrorist, rather than the right-wing terrorist he actually was.

I would add that the poor response of Norwegian law enforcement, not any supposed softness towards terrorism, offers real lessons. More here.

Monday, August 1, 2011

President Obama, Educate the Public on Fiscal Policy (at TCF)

There's one obvious lesson of this depressing political season: The American public doesn't understand what economic policy is about, and why our government is not like your family balancing its checkbook sitting around the dinner table.
President Obama holds some responsibility for this public ignorance. He needs to educate the public much more effectively than he has done. One speech he needs to give moving forward: Something very simple and clear that explains the stabilizing function of government expenditures during recession.
The president's bud Paul Krugman is the ideal person to write such a speech. The below version would be my first draft.... More here.

Generations: A poem by Arlene Pollack

To my father in his eightieth season, and to me.

I wished for a long life
And here I am, now eighty years,
Still wishing, wanting still
To walk in stride with you
And hold your hand,
Stepping over pebbles
And the soft white sand
That hold the sea at bay,
Wishing to rescue you from a misstep
Into the sea,
Needing to shelter you,
To dare a tidal wave
To pull you out to sea. More here.