November/December 2011

The Cure

The politics of debt have gotten so insane that both parties are on the verge of gutting Medicare. The moment might be right to actually fix it.

Hidden capital

There is a problem with government accounting that drives me around the bend, but that I rarely see noted elsewhere. When corporations build a factory, it is considered a positive, the creation of a capital asset. But when government builds a road or a school, it’s an expense. It’s simply spending money, treated the same… Read more »

Consider the alternative

I agree with those who say both parties are responsible for the sorry state of Washington, but isn’t it time to face the fact that much more than half the guilt lies with the Republicans? I say this even though I agree with much of the criticism of the Democratic Party and of Barack Obama… Read more »

The company you keep

One of the most disturbing trends is the one away from Obama among so many liberal American Jews. Are they going to let themselves be swayed by the right wing that has taken over Israel? That Rick Perry and his ilk are standing 100 percent behind Israel’s present leaders—see Perry’s recent Wall Street Journal op-ed… Read more »

They know not what he does

One little-noted Obama accomplishment was recently acknowledged by Kevin Sack in the New York Times. He reports that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of uninsured young adults aged eighteen to twenty-five has dropped by a margin of 900,000. This reduction was recorded just one year after the effective date of the… Read more »

The takeover

In previous columns I have noted that congressional staffers now dream not of becoming members, as they once did, but of earning big bucks as lobbyists. Now comes a study with the hard evidence, produced by the transparency advocacy group LegiStorm, finding that almost 5,400 current and former staffers “have gone through the lobbying ‘revolving… Read more »

Christie as cynic

Back to Obama. I agree with the criticism that he has spent too much time reaching out to Republicans. But I do understand and admire his desire to find common ground. His own experience at the Harvard Law Review and in the Illinois legislature seemed to prove that he could get conservatives and liberals, Democrats… Read more »

Regulation is not the problem

Conservatives with minds as capable of subtlety and irony as David Brooks’s are rare. Recently, however, Brooks fell into an outrageous right-wing cliché, asserting that “a growing government sucked resources away from the most productive parts of the economy—innovators, entrepreneurs and workers—and redirected it to the most politically connected parts. The byzantine tax code and… Read more »

The danger of doing nothing

“Imagine a football field packed 20 feet high with highly radioactive nuclear waste,” as Mark Moremond of the Wall Street Journal recently asked his readers to do. That, he explains, is the amount of nuclear waste sitting around at various sites in this country. The bad news is that nothing is being done about it…. Read more »

Learning on the job

If Solyndra was a mistake, it was, as my friend Joe Nocera made clear in a recent New York Times column, an understandable one. But it also illustrates Obama’s greatest weakness as he began his presidency: the lack of understanding of the executive branch that, for example, led him to leave spending too much of… Read more »

When going public was bad for the public

If the age of greed did not officially begin until the 1980s, there were some early signs that it was on its way. One was the craze for “going public” that took root a few years earlier. A Wall Street firm would descend on prosperous businesses that were either controlled by families or a small… Read more »

The tune-up

Speaking of Steven Rattner reminds me of another Obama triumph, the rescue of the auto industry, in which Rattner was the administration’s point man. This effort saved more than a million jobs in the auto and related industries—and, in helping inspire reform of the business, promises future growth with more jobs to come.

How both sides got wiser

Many of the reforms are in management management, which is becoming more flexible and innovative. But one significant reform, reported by the Wall Street Journal, came from big labor. The UAW is now agreeing to link wages and benefits to company performance instead of, as had become union practice, demanding increases regardless. Incredibly, when the… Read more »

Medical laissez-faire

“At least 15 drug and medical device companies have paid $6.5 billion since 2008 to settle accusations of marketing fraud or kickbacks,” reports the Washington Post. These kickbacks were typically paid to the doctors who prescribed the drugs. Yet, reports the Post, “not one of the doctors has been prosecuted or disqualified by state medical… Read more »

Who’s in charge?

In case you live in the Washington area and worry what would happen in the event of another event like 9/11 or the Cuban missile crisis—during which the possibility of a nuclear attack on the city rose for a few days from the realm of possibility to the realm of probability—the Washington Post‘s Robert McCartney… Read more »

How the Washington, D.C. area got rich

In 2010, the Washington metropolitan area enjoyed the highest median income of any in the country. A major factor in the growth of our wealth has been government contracts. The contracting out of the functions of the federal government was pioneered by the Pentagon as its military and civilian officials discovered that the process of… Read more »

The right time to propose

In only its second issue, March 1969, this magazine exposed one secret of the clever contractor. It was to make his proposal toward the end of a fiscal year, when the agencies usually had money they needed to spend, because otherwise it would revert back to the treasury. Even though there have since been several… Read more »

Justice Served

U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens’s thirty-five-year tenure was marked by intellectual rigor, lack of pretension, and the firm belief that absolutism had no place on the bench.

What Happens in the Campaign Stays in the Campaign

The 2012 presidential race is entering what might be called the “full public colonoscopy” phase, when the press really begins digging into every nook and cranny of the leading candidates’ public and private lives looking for scandal material. Rick Perry, the new guy, has taken the brunt so far, with stories of his unfortunately named… Read more »