December 20, 2007

Larry Summers’s Tax Cut Plea Falls on Deaf Old Media Ears

When Larry Summers suggested in early 2005 that, as paraphrased by Slate’s William Saletan, “innate differences between the sexes might help explain why relatively few women become professional scientists or engineers,” the outcry was immediate, furious, and went to saturation level virtually overnight. The controversy ultimately led to his resignation a year later as Harvard President.

On Wednesday, Mr. Summers, a Democrat who was once Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton, made a recommendation in his area of expertise — that is, that a tax cut would be a good idea to protect against a possible recession. (Yours truly doesn’t believe that a recession is anywhere near occurring. But hey, I’ve said since May, and several times since [here, here, and here, among others] that a tax cut is needed anyway to keep the economy chugging along at a good rate. So if panicked pols want to enact a tax cut for the wrong reason, I’ll take it.)

Old Media reaction to Summers has been virtual silence.

A Dec. 19-20 Google News search on “summers tax cut” (not in quotes) done at 8:30 p.m. has all of seven listings. Two are off topic. Two are buried behind the Wall Street Journal’s subscription wall. One, snidely entitled “Greenspan, Summers: Economy needs handouts, tax cuts,” is at a Baltimore Sun blog.

Only one, a Washington Post story by Neil Irwin appearing today at Page D01, can be considered as coming from a primary news outlet (where in the world is the Associated Press?).

Irwin’s headline and opening paragraph are bizarre, to say the least:

Summers Criticizes Handling of Crises
Bush, Fed ‘Behind the Curve,’ Ex-Treasury Secretary Says

President Bush and the Federal Reserve aren’t taking aggressive enough action to prevent a recession, former Treasury secretary Lawrence H. Summers said yesterday, as Democrats ramped up their attacks on the administration’s handling of the housing downturn and credit crises.

Irwin spends the next five paragraphs quoting Summers and others about the current economic situation. It isn’t until Paragraph 7 that he quotes Summers uttering the two words that make Old Media reporters and pundits cower in fear — t-t-t-tax ….. c-c-c-cuts — and even then, avoids typing the phrase until the last sentence:

Summers, a Harvard economics professor and former president of the university, said the president and Congress should use fiscal policy — the government’s taxing and spending abilities — to help goose the economy in 2008. The best way to do that, he said, would be to temporarily lower taxes equally among taxpayers, extend unemployment insurance and increase food-stamp benefits. He stressed that such tax cuts and spending increases should be temporary, so as not to increase long-term budget deficits.

The only remaining item in the Google News search is an IBDeditorials.com opinion piece (“A Democrat Leads“), which inadvertently but accurately describes why the coverage of Summers’s recommendation has been so light:

An old White House hand supports new tax cuts and wants the Fed to cut rates to help consumers and block a possible recession. Just another dish of extreme right-wing dogma?

That’s how the media would like to portray it. In their world, tax cuts are the shallow and reckless property of the radical right. No thoughtful person, meaning Democrats and self-described liberals and centrists, would ever consider tax cuts.

But in this case, the media can’t make that accusation. The man calling for tax cuts was once Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary.

One can’t help but think that Old Media editors are saying, “We can’t have that. And if he’s going to say it, we surely aren’t going to report it.”

If what Summers has to say got wide media play, it could blunt the effectiveness of the rhetoric of the major Democratic presidential candidates, all of whom are saying that the Bush tax cuts should expire (translation: there should be a major tax increase, not a decrease).

Again, can’t have that.

Maybe, to get attention, Summers should have said something about the prevalence, or lack if it, of women in economics.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Confederate Yankee on Romney and Guns: There’s That Word Again

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:42 pm

At Pajamas Media’s place, Bob Owens catches another unforced error by Unfit Mitt in Sunday’s Meet the Press interview (transcript is at BizzyBlog host, linked for fair use and discussion purposes; bold is mine; statements by Romney are in italics):

Grilled by Tim Russert on Meet the Press this past Sunday over his past support for controversial gun control laws, Mitt Romney reiterated his support for a ban on “assault weapons,” a detail most observers in the media duly forgot.

Romney’s answers to Russert’s questions smacked of either ignorance or pandering ….

I signed—I would have supported the original assault weapon ban.

….. But, but I would, I would look at (banning) weapons that pose extraordinary lethality…

….. We also should keep weapons of unusual lethality from being on the street.

In Mitt’s world, what constitutes extraordinary or unusual lethality?

Such terms cannot objectively apply to the ammunition most commonly chambered in the class of firearms he targets, especially when compared to the most common calibers of hunting rifles he says he does support.

Most big-game hunting rifles that Romney intones he supports fire cartridges that are far more lethal in terms of raw kinetic power and effective range than those in the assault rifle class. Many of the most common hunting calibers—for example, the .30/06 and .270 Winchester—have roughly twice the muzzle energy of the intermediate bullets common to assault weapons. If brute killing force is his standard, then the most common hunting rifles are “unusually lethal.” Somehow, I doubt the sportsmen of Iowa would appreciate that message this primary season.

That would make Objectively Unfit Mitt Romney objectively not up to speed, and not up to snuff, on Second Amendment rights. Add another unacceptable issue position to the pile.

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UPDATE: See Comment 5, which states the situation more strongly, and more precisely, than the above. I know the commenter well enough to be confident that he knows what he’s talking about. What he says demonstrates that Romney’s gun-rights/2nd Amendment position is another reason, in a still-growing list of reasons, why Mitt is Objectively Unfit.

Tancredo Drops Out, Endorses Romney

Filed under: Immigration,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:18 pm

The news is here.

Huh? (link is to official Tancredo YouTube vid called “Romney Supports Amnesty”)

Text at vid link:

TeamTancredo.org (Note: This IS the official Tancredo web site — Ed.)

Romney says he supports a temporary ID card for illegal aliens. That’s amnesty.

Added: July 26, 2007

Utterly unexplainable, even before you get to his other stands, at which point the mystery only deepens.

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UPDATE: United Conservatives of Virginia — “Tancredo drops out. Loses mind in process….

Final 3Q07 GDP Comes in at 4.9%; Something About 2000

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:39 am

The release from the Bureau of Economic Analysis is here. The final result is the same as the preliminary one issued last month.

The last time the economy went from such a strong positive to a negative, as some pundits are predicting, was from the second to third quarter of 2000 (+6.4% to -0.5%).

2000? I thought that was the rip-roaring greatest economy ever. That’s what everyone was telling us during the 2000 election campaign.

We all thought it was great at the time, and had reason to believe it. After all, the announced changes in GDP during the three quarters before Election Day in 2000 were:

  • 5.5% – 1st Quarter 2000
  • 5.6% – 2nd Quarter 2000
  • 2.7% – 3rd Quarter 2000 (advance esimate, issued in late Oct.; final GDP growth published in December 2000 was 2.2%)

But the official figures for the three quarters involved, after BEA did its comprehensive revisions, are now 1.0%, 6.4%, and -0.5%. Those percentages differ from the original announcements by -4.5%, +0.8%, and -3.2% (-2.7% from final figure in December), respectively.

Recent after-the-fact comprehensive changes during the 2-1/2 years I have been following GDP closely have, I believe, never been more than 1.0% in any one quarter.

It’s very hard to imagine that differences of the size that occurred in 2000 weren’t due to something besides ordinary estimating errors. So excuse me for thinking that there may (emphasis “may”) have been some data manipulation going on over at BEA in the Spring and Summer of 2000.

Put it this way: Do you think a miserable first quarter GDP report, or a negative third quarter report issued about a week before the Bush-Gore 2000 vote, would have mattered?

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UPDATE: I have asked someone from BEA to explain the 2000 changes, and have been promised a response. We’ll see.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (122007)

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Education,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:33 am

J. Nicholas Hoover at Information Week has shocking news about Vista adoption:

Last October, a Gartner survey found that 64% of companies planned to begin moving from Windows XP to Windows Vista by the winter of 2008. One year later, that number stands at a measly 9%.

….. That 64% deployment barrier now isn’t expected to be reached until early 2009, just around the time Microsoft stops making Windows XP Professional available to white box PC vendors. And Windows “7,” the version after Vista, is due either late 2009 or some time in 2010, depending on who you ask and what tea leaves you read.

Has there even been a large-scale product rollout, especially to an existing user base, that has been so thoroughly rejected? How many years of this will companies put up with this before searching for an alternative? Or is Microsoft’s hold on the corporate market so strong that it can screw up indefinitely?

As I’ve noted for over a year (here, here, here [second-last item], and here [final item]), Microsoft is so dominant in such an important area of the economy that its failure to get Vista and related items right could in and of itself slow down productivity improvement and hurt economic growth.

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USA Today’s piece on congressional and presidential approval ratings had this odd assertion:

Although just 30% of those polled give Democrats in Congress good marks, they favor the party by a 53%-40% margin in next year’s elections. That represents a silver lining for Democrats, who achieved only a fraction of their ambitious agenda after taking over Congress.

It’s even odder that the 53%-40% cited isn’t in the survey detail anywhere, and the article has no external link.

I think I know why: 26% give Republicans in Congress good marks, which was “somehow” not mentioned in the article. So the Dems lead the GOP by only 4 points (30-26) in the survey metric. So I would suggest that writer Richard Wolf USAT felt like he had to go out and find a more impressive difference. 13 points is a lot better than 4. No bias there, eh?

After the budget bluster of the past week, I would not be surprised to see that 4-point difference evaporate, with more Nutrootsters disapproving of Dems.

Expanded upon in this entry at NewsBusters.org.

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Michelle’s right. This is incandescent stupidity.

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Eliot Spitzer’s free-fall in “Troopergate” continues (HT Instapundit).

Troopergate? Given the history of that term, whoever is responsible for making the New York version of the name stick is an evil genius.

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Paul Weyrich notes that we badly need blue-collar workers:

We must change the stigma we have placed on noncollegiate work. We again need to make workers who lay the tracks, who pave the roads, who collect the garbage, become proud Americans.

There is no way these folks shouldn’t be as proud as those who go to college. Granted they will never have a degree to hang on the wall. But they will be able to support their families in fine fashion.

Blue-collar jobs that pay very well are going begging. How can that be? The problem is that we need educated and creative blue-collar workers, not the scandalous percentage of functional illiterates our education system is producing. He’s also right that the condescension on the part of people who work in an office towards people who don’t (even if they are functionally illiterate) has got to end.

Positivity: Barking, scratching dogs save Dunedin woman from house fire

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:59 am

From Dunedin, Florida:

Last Updated on 12/7/2007 6:30:44 PM

Heidi Moller has only known her roommate’s dogs a few weeks, but a white pit bull mix named Alligator, and a Great Dane named Maverick, are her new best friends.

“Oh my God, I love them,” said Moller.

Moller’s roommate Jennifer was at work and she was still sleeping about 7:30 last Friday morning. The dogs wouldn’t stop barking.

They kept scratching the hallway door until Heidi let them in. Then they led her to the garage door.

“The white dog she started barking at the door and then I opened the door, saw smoke coming in there was like flames coming up in my face,” said Moller.

Moller and the dogs got out and she called 911. Dunedin firefighters stopped the fire before flames got into the attic.

“If it wasn’t for the dogs because I sleep so hard the smoke would have reached me before the flames if they wouldn’t have woke me up and then I wouldn’t be able to wake up by the time the flames hit my room,” said Moller.

Dunedin Fire Marshal Bill McElligott says the dogs got Moller out of the house before smoke detectors went off.

“It was a good volume of fire in that garage area and she’s very fortunate she had the animal give her the early warning,” said McElligott.

McElligott says the fire was started by poor ventilation that caused the dryer to overheat. Moller and her roommate lost most of their clothes and are now moving what they have left.

“The dogs were ok, I was ok that was the important thing,” said Moller. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.