Political Animal

Deal Making, Republican Style

DEAL MAKING, REPUBLICAN STYLE….Monocle points us to the latest advances in senatorial courtesy from Orrin Hatch:

“Some [of your questions] I totally disagree with,” Hatch of Utah said. “Some I think are dumbass questions, between you and me. I am not kidding you. I mean, as much as I love and respect you, I just think that’s true.”

A stunned [Charles] Schumer asked if he heard the chairman correctly, to which Hatch said yes. Again, Schumer asked Hatch if he would like to “revise and extend his remark,” congressional speak for change his mind.

A former trial attorney, Hatch replied: “No, I am going to keep it exactly the way it is. I mean, I hate to say it. I mean, I feel badly saying it between you and me. But I do know dumbass questions when I see dumbass questions.”

This was reported by Fox News, and further down the story there’s actually a more interesting (though less entertaining) bit of news:

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, on Wednesday suggested a rule change that would prevent filibusters in exchange for preventing another technique of putting “holds” on nominees.

That’s a great idea, Kay! If Democrats agree to give up the filibuster, then Republicans will also agree to remove the only other method Democrats have for objecting to a candidate. It’s smooth sailing for conservative judges after that!

OK, I’ve got another one: if Hutchison agrees to deed her house over to me, then in return I’ll agree to take her car off her hands. I’m totally down with that.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

JOBS, JOBS, JOBS….Our story so far: President Bush says his tax cuts will produce 1.4 million new jobs. Paul Krugman responded in his column saying, gee, 1.4 million jobs at a cost of $726 billion in tax cuts is $500,000 per job. Seems a bit steep, no? Maybe a more direct jobs program, such as aid to free-falling state governments so they don’t have to lay off thousands of workers, would be a better deal.

Next came Donald Luskin in National Review Online, complaining that Krugman is lying lying. See, it’s a 10-year tax cut, and that 1.4 million jobs is only through 2004. Looking out, we should assume, oh, 500,000 new jobs per year beyond that, for a total of 5.4 million new jobs over ten years. That’s only $134,000 per new job!

With me so far? Dwight Meredith was dubious about this, and Krugman himself replied on his own website (on Thursday, then again on Monday, and finally on Tuesday), making the point that a fiscal stimulus doesn’t last forever. Before long, the new jobs go away and the economy returns to its baseline performance. So the costs are for ten years, but the benefits only last for one or two.

Yammer, yammmer, yammer. Damn economists. But wait: it gets better.

Today Max Sawicky goes to the numbers and prints a handy little chart straight from the CEA report used by Bush, Krugman, and Luskin. The numbers are straightforward: 1.4 million jobs in 2003-2004, then -700,000 jobs in 2005-2007, for a net total of 700,000 new jobs. Hmmm, looks like Krugman’s only mistake was being too nice. It’s actually more like $1 million per job.

But here’s the final cherry: Luskin claimed that the CEA report only went through 2004, so he just sort of estimated job growth for the out years. But that’s not true: the CEA report makes estimates through 2007. What happened?

In comments at Max’s site, Dwight says one of his readers, Bruce Moomaw, emailed Luskin about this, and Luskin replied that he hadn’t actually read the CEA report. He just pulled the 5.4 million number out of the air.

Luskin wrote a thousand words making little more than wild ass guesses ? guesses that are clearly contradicted if he had bothered to read the report itself. Remember that the next time you read anything written by him.

(Or if you have a more cynical turn of mind, just take Megan McArdle’s advice from today: they’re all a bunch of policy whores and finding the Diogenes of economics takes diligence and patience. Something that, um, most of us don’t have. Hmmm, what was that again…?)

UPDATE: Dwight points out in comments that it was Bruce Moomaw who emailed Luskin, not him. This has been corrected in the text.

George Bush vs. the World

GEORGE BUSH VS. THE WORLD….Good editorial in the Washington Post today about the Bush administration’s senseless insistence on punishing everyone who disagreed with our decision to invade Iraq:

Overt U.S. measures, such as excluding France from NATO decision-making, will only help Mr. Chirac prove the point he has been trying to make to Europe and the rest of the world — that the United States has become a reckless colossus and needs to be balanced by coalitions of other nations.

….The attack on Chile is even more senseless….Eighty-five percent of Chileans opposed a war in Iraq; their government responded by supporting a compromise in the Security Council that was intended to delay the war while making possible its eventual endorsement. If this solid hemispheric citizen is now to be punished for failing to fall in line with the United States, the world will indeed take a lesson — and not the right one.

George Bush has been playing high-stakes politics ever since he became president, seemingly convinced that the way to win is to cow your enemies into submission by attacking at all times and never, ever backing down. The problem is that unless you truly have the power of a Chicago mob boss ? and all appearances aside, we don’t ? this doesn’t work in the long run. On the contrary, it just makes your enemies madder.

Domestically, Bush’s show-no-mercy instincts are already coming back to haunt him, with the Democrats finally becoming genuinely pissed off enough to start playing hardball. Internationally, if he keeps this up, the same thing will happen: even Tony Blair, with his competing loyalties between the U.S. and Europe, won’t put up with this forever.

The big question is this: are Bush’s instincts just leading him astray, or does he actually want to get the rest of the world ganged up against us? It’s hard to tell sometimes.