218 Responses

  1. The income tax is 100 years old. Molly Michelmore of Washington and Lee gives a little history including this excerpt:

    Popular hostility toward these moneyed interests helps explain the initial popularity of the income tax. In their 1892 platform, a group of agrarian radicals known as Populists demanded a graduated income tax to bring an end to “oppression, injustice, and poverty” and to restore “equal rights and equal privileges for all.” Republicans and Democrats took notice; in 1894, Congress imposed a 2 percent tax on incomes over $4,000.

    The new tax lasted less than a year. In 1895, the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in Pollack v. Farmers’ Loan and Trust . In a scathing dissent, Justice Henry Billings Brown accused the court of surrendering the “taxing power to the moneyed class.” Justice John Harlan called the ruling a “disaster.”

    But the court’s decision made the income tax more popular. At their 1896 convention, Democrats endorsed such a tax as the best way to ensure that the “burdens of taxation” be “equally and impartially laid” so that “wealth may bear its due proportion of the expenses of Government.” (emphasis added) By 1908, both parties supported a national income tax. The following year, Congress sent an income-tax amendment to the states for ratification.

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  2. Ramaesh Ponnoru seems to be arguing for increasing inflation.

    Trying to boost economic growth through looser money is usually a mistake, as Reaganites rightly argued. They were right, too, to think that the Federal Reserve should make its actions predictable by adhering to a rule rather than improvising depending on its assessment of current conditions. The best way to put those impulses into practice is to require the Fed to stabilize the growth of nominal spending. That rule would allow looser money only when nominal spending is depressed. Keeping nominal spending on track is more or less what the Fed did from 1984 through 2007, a period that Republicans sometimes call the Reagan boom (since they see Bill Clinton as having largely kept his policies) and that economists generally call the Great Moderation. Relatively stable nominal spending growth promoted relatively stable economic growth, and it can again.

    Could someone better at interpreting jargon tell me what this really means?

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  3. He is basically saying that Republicans are fighting the last war with their criticism of the Fed and QE. During a normal economic expansion, excessively loose monetary policy leads to inflation. The Reagan context was the 1970s, where Fed easing in the context of an already inflationary environment seemed to only create more inflation and not more growth (stagflation). Ramesh is correct that we are not in that situation now, and Republicans seem to be out of step when they worry about inflation in the current economic environment. Instead, Republicans should argue for money supply growth to be pegged to long-run GDP. This allows for a looser monetary policy during recessions, and allows the Fed to tighten when economic growth is above trend. In this context, Republicans would be arguing that a less activist Fed would lead to more predictable money supply growth and that would lead to better economic growth.

    As a practical matter, when the Fed is not fighting fires, it more or less does exactly that. But that is not the current economic environment. My criticism is that excessively loose monetary policy breeds bubbles, but IMO, the Fed is attempting to recreate the wealth effect to help spur more consumer spending. I suspect it will all end badly, but for some inexplicable reason, the post-mortem of the housing crash has fallen along the partisan narratives of (“the banksters did it” vs “Fannie and the CRA did it”) and the biggest culprit – the Fed – has escaped blame.

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    • Thanks. That made a lot of sense. So what should the Fed be doing? Or does it even have enough power to drag us out of these slow growth near-recession doldrums all by itself?

      Robert Samuelson argues that our problems are psychological rather than economic.

      We are hostage to a stubborn, restraining psychology. There’s no obvious fix for slow job growth, precisely because it requires a change in public mood or some autonomous source of added demand — a burst of exports, investment in new technologies — not easily predicted or controlled.

      That sounds like a cop-out and comes dangerously close to ‘malaise’ territory.

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      • http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/02/18/have-seniors-really-paid-for-medicare-and-social-security/?hpid=z6

        Ezra taking a lot of guff for pointing out that my generation has underpaid its Medicare. According to Ezra, we have paid for our OASB, which eases my conscience about the monthly check I receive. I kinda thought I had paid in a lot.

        My take-away is this sentence:

        As a general point, the real problem with health-care spending isn’t how much we’re spending but how little we’re getting.

        As he writes, if this cannot be fixed, either the costs of medicare will eat up everything else and then some, or taxes will have to be increased.

        I think we all knew this, here. But I do think the good news is that SS OASB is not a Ponzi scheme.

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        • mark:

          According to Ezra, we have paid for our OASB, which eases my conscience about the monthly check I receive.

          I want to look at his numbers (which come from the Urban Institue) because I ran the numbers myself once and I got that a person with an average lifetime income and an average lifespan definitely receives more in SS benefits than he has paid in. I can’t check it now but will try to at some point.

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        • mark:

          According to the Urban Institute study which Ezra based his claim on:

          All amounts are in constant 2012 dollars and adjusted to present value at age 65 using a 2
          percent real interest rate.

          I don’t think it makes sense to adjust lifetime contributions for inflation. Inflation, of course, destroys savings. If you put $100 in a bank for 40 years, the prncipal stays as $100, even if inflation has turned $100 from 40 years ago into the equivalent of $1000 today. I wish there were more details about how the Urban Institute came up with its numbers. I find it very unlikely that the average person has paid more into SS than they are getting out.

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        • Here’s a little info on SS: how it does/does not affect the deficit, how it became the topic of being in trouble, stance of proponents of dismantling SS and proponents for securing SS and how our government actually owes more to SS than it does to China. I already knew all this and I find it an insult to Americans (and their employers) who have paid into SS for decades and decades.

          http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sen-don-riegle/post_1901_b_845106.html

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        • Mark:

          According to Ezra’s/The Urban Institute’s numbers, the average single male turning 65 in 2010 with a lifetime of average earnings had paid a total of $300,000 in SS taxes over his life. Assuming he started his working life at 22 after college, that means he began earning in 1967. Yet if you look at US Census data on average income for each year starting in 1967, you will find that the total earnings for someone earning an average wage between 1967 and 2010 is just over $1.1 million dollars. That suggests that the average person retiring in 2010 would have had to have paid more than 25% of his total income into SS in order for his total contributions to be $300,000. Even if we assume that the $300k figure includes employer contributions, he still would have paid more than 12% of his income into SS over his life. We know that this isn’t true, as the payroll tax is and has always been much lower than that.

          Something is wrong with Ezra’s numbers.

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  4. “But I do think the good news is that SS OASB is not a Ponzi scheme.”

    Correct. It’s welfare.

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    • JNC – if we pay in more over a lifetime than we receive, individually, it is more like a forced savings plan spread over a population, like a pension. The only reason that anyone argues that it is welfare is b/c the SS Trust Fund doesn’t exist except as an accounting entity. So long as we trust our debt instruments it is as real as full faith and credit can make it. IMHO.

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  5. “yellojkt, on February 18, 2013 at 12:22 pm said:

    Thanks. That made a lot of sense. So what should the Fed be doing?”

    Maintaining overall stability in the money supply to prevent either inflation or deflation.

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  6. BannedAgain convinced me that it’s welfare because the benefits are mandated separately from the “trust fund”. I.e. even if the trust fund runs out of money, the benefits are still paid from general revenues and added to the deficit.

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    • Social Security is an ‘entitlement’ in the strictest sense of the word. Your benefit is based on your previous payments, thus calculating what you are entitled to. The formula can always be changed, but it’s a rule that everybody follows the same way. Any sort of means testing inevitably becomes a marginal tax above and beyond the income tax formulation.

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  7. Something is wrong with Ezra’s numbers.

    I summed the male column from 1967-2010 and came up with $1,892,145, which $300,000 would be 15.8% of. Assuming the mean male didn’t start working until the age of 22 is a very bad assumption. The additional money a college graduate makes is averaged over the opportunity cost of being out of the work force during college. The mean male should include all adult years. Adding four more years of income brings the total north of $2M pushing the effective withholdings to 14.8% which is at least in the realm of plausibility if still a little high. The difference between mean and median, single male and all male and some other minor methodology differences could easily close the gap.

    As a footnote, it’s worth noticing that inflation adjusted wages declined between 1997 and 2010.

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    • yello:

      I can’t access the numbers right now to check why your sum is so different to mine, but there is no way that adding, say, 5 years of additional average income between 1962 and 1967, in order account for all adult income rather than just post college income, would add up to the needed $100k+ in order to push all earnings north of $2 million. Average annual income in the mid 60’s was around $6k.

      Are you summing up the column that is income in 2010, inflation adjusted, dollars? That is the wrong thing to do, because a worker in, say, 1970, did not pay taxes on his income in 2010 dollars. He paid taxes on his income in 1970 dollars. His “contribution” to SS is the sum total of actual dollars paid, not the amount paid in constant, inflation adjusted dollars. If I deposit money in the bank and withdraw it 40 years later, the bank doesn’t adjust my deposit for inflation and then pay me back. So it doesn’t make sense to adjust the contributions to SS for inflation either, if one is looking to see if what one paid in is more or less than what one gets out.

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  8. Are you summing up the column that is income in 2010, inflation adjusted, dollars?

    Yes. The $300k number was in 2010 dollars. You can dispute the merits of adjusting for inflation but you can’t mix and match if you are comparing revenue streams in different units (nominal vs. actual) in the same analysis.

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    • Yello:

      That’s my point. It is wrong to suggest that the average person retiring in 2010 contributed $300k, because they did not. That is an inflation adjusted number, and it makes no sense to use it when trying to determine if people have paid in more than they are getting out. It cannot be considered a “forced savings plan” as Mark suggestedif people are getting back more than they actually paid in.

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  9. Pretty much 99.9% in agreement with Howard Dean here:

    “Howard Dean On Sequester: ‘Let It Happen’
    Posted: 02/15/2013 1:23 pm EST | Updated: 02/15/2013 7:09 pm EST”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/15/howard-dean-sequester-_n_2695721.html

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  10. It’s not just Obama that Tea Partiers think is a Nazi. It seems that it extends to Karl Rove as well. The American Spectator, for one, is disgusted.

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  11. jnc: does that make you a liberal now?? Whoa. . . 🙂

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  12. No, it makes Howard Dean somewhat of a fiscal conservative.

    “Despite his reputation as a dogmatic liberal, Dean is something of a deficit hawk, which is why he’s far more comfortable with sequestration than most Democrats.”

    This isn’t really the liberal position:

    “There’s a school of thought that says now is just not the right time to do any cuts of any variety. [Congressional Budget Office Director] Doug Elmendorf testified that if sequestration went through, you’d lose 750,000 jobs in the first year. So what about the argument that you should put off sequestration for a year and not have any cuts at all?

    Well, the problem is that it’s never a good time to do cuts. When I look at these guys on Sunday talk shows, they’re all over the place. They all say we need cuts and when you try to pin them down, they don’t have any. So either they can be serious about the deficit or not. They’re not. And I think cutting the Pentagon is the good thing to do. I don’t think we’re going to get another chance. If you want to put this off for six months, yeah okay. But I don’t want to miss this chance. We already missed our chance before.”

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  13. Michi, you may like David Brooks’s piece today:

    “Data struggles with the social. Your brain is pretty bad at math (quick, what’s the square root of 437), but it’s excellent at social cognition. People are really good at mirroring each other’s emotional states, at detecting uncooperative behavior and at assigning value to things through emotion.

    Computer-driven data analysis, on the other hand, excels at measuring the quantity of social interactions but not the quality. Network scientists can map your interactions with the six co-workers you see during 76 percent of your days, but they can’t capture your devotion to the childhood friends you see twice a year, let alone Dante’s love for Beatrice, whom he met twice.

    Therefore, when making decisions about social relationships, it’s foolish to swap the amazing machine in your skull for the crude machine on your desk.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/19/opinion/brooks-what-data-cant-do.html?ref=opinion

    Clearly he is unfamiliar with the latest work in liquidity and market clearing in the online dating market.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/02/14/why-online-dating-services-are-like-financial-markets-and-not-just-because-you-might-get-lucky/

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  14. Actually, my brain is quick enough at math to know that Brooks’ example of a square root is silly. And if he hasn’t cleared his market already I’d say it’s too late for him.

    I guess some of us social liberals are enough libertarians at heart to be ready for the sequester; I’m not nearly as sanguine about it as Brent is, but I do agree that it’s our best chance for making some defense cuts that are sorely needed. And I’m cautiously hopeful about the whole thing because it appears that Wall Street is getting a big collective yawn over it.

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  15. It’s a trivial amount. If we are lucky, we’ll manage to get the deficit below $1 trillion this year, but that’s about it.

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    • It’s a trivial amount.

      No. It is not. It took 12 years to dig this hole.

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      • Mark:

        No. It is not. It took 12 years to dig this hole.

        If I understand it correctly, the amount that will be cut from the 2013 budget, $85 billion, is less than the growth in the budget from 2012 to 2013. That seems pretty trivial to me. Government spending ought to be cut by massive amounts, not less than its annual growth rate.

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  16. And the fact that it took 12 years to dig in is why I deeply distrust quick fixes.

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    • Mich:

      And the fact that it took 12 years to dig in is why I deeply distrust quick fixes.

      I thought the total sequestration cuts were to be made over 10 years. I don’t understand how that constitutes a “quick fix”.

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      • I’ll put it another way: it took 12 years, two wars fought on credit, tax cuts, a massive recession, a “stimulus”, still more tax cuts, increases in domestic spending and runaway health care costs to dig this hole. It will take a long time to dig out and JNC’s $100B a year of reduced deficits, either by growth, inflation, reduced spending, or higher taxes, or a lucky combination thereof, and with no wars and no Yellowstone event, would be a fast fill. It could happen if we really try and are real lucky.

        BB, I did exactly the same instant calculation as you did, and I taught all my kids the difference of squares as well as several other short cuts while they were in elementary school. My oldest daughter is the only one who remembers them.

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  17. Brooks evidently never heard of the binomial distribution. I was perusing the thread while watching Primo and Secondo at swimming practice. 21 squared is 441, so we’re pretty close. The difference is 4. As (a + b)^2 is a^2 + 2ab + b^2, (21 – x)^2 = 441 – 42x. So, as 42x = 4, x is about 0.1. The approximate solution is 20.9. [I play with numbers in my mind, so I got that far without benefit of a calculator.] If you use a calculator, you get 20.9048… Put another way, 20.9^2 is 436.81, about 1/20 of a percent off the true value.

    The question in and of itself is nonsense. The square root of 437 is an irrational number and so the question cannot be answered without an infinite amount of time. A good metaphor for political punditry. Ask questions without answers.

    ßß

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  18. “markinaustin, on February 19, 2013 at 7:54 pm said:

    It’s a trivial amount.

    No. It is not. It took 12 years to dig this hole.”

    It’s about the same amount as the Democrats jacked up the baseline spending in 2009, separate from the stimulus bill.

    “Many Republicans fought against the bill because it raised government spending by 8 percent above fiscal 2008 levels. They said it added more money to programs already funded by the $787 billion economic stimulus package approved last month.”

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/03/11/us-usa-budget-idUSN1054411920090311

    It’s not going to be fixed overnight, but a ten year plan with 100 billion in deficit reduction every year is doable.

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  19. jnc:

    BTW, I went off the grid yesterday for a rest, and spent the day with Mr Scullard. I’m really, really enjoying the book, so thanks again for the recommendation!

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  20. I believe Brent has reported that the result is a net increase in nominal (not inflation or population adjusted) spending by $5 – $15 billion.

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  21. I’m glad you like it. If you develop an interest in Roman history from this period, I highly recommend Colleen McCullough’s First Man in Rome series for further reading. It’s a masterpiece of historical fiction.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masters_of_Rome

    I wish she had started earlier with the Gracci, but so be it.

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  22. jnc: It’s funny, because I’ve always liked Greek and Roman history, but somehow this is a period I’ve totally skipped. I’m not sure how that happened, but there it is.

    I’ll have to look up McCullough’s work.

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  23. Scott:

    I consider this a quick fix because there is little to no thought behind it. After the Grand Bargain fell through it took, what, two weeks to put this together?

    And you and I both know that what goes into effect tomorrow (budget-wise) will not be anywhere near what is in effect four years from now, let alone ten.

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    • Mich:

      I consider this a quick fix because there is little to no thought behind it.

      I think this is the only way it can be done, at least with the present government. Neither Obama nor the majority of Dems want to cut spending. Any “thought” given to cuts will result in increased spending, because progressives control government and that is what they want.

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  24. NoVA:

    Oh. My. God.

    They killed Matthew???!!!

    We need to have tea.

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  25. at least with the present government.

    Don’t lay it all on Democrats. Show me a politician who really wants to cut spending. There isn’t a single one who would really do it if he/she had to put his name to it.

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    • Ah – you’re caught up. As soon as they had a shot of him driving back to Downton, I thought .. the only reason to show that is to have a horrific accident. nah. they can’t do that.

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      • I thought it was manipulative as could be to kill off Matthew, but I had read two months ago the actor “was leaving the series”. Should have guessed Matthew would die on screen.

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    • Mich:

      Don’t lay it all on Democrats.

      Most of the blame lies with progressives and progressivism. R’s spend money to appease voters and to get re-elected, so yes, it’s hard to get R’s to cut spending too. But progressives spend money as a matter of principle. That’s what they think government is for…to redirect resources to the “proper” things. It is this ideology about what government is for that is the primary problem, and while R’s are not entirely blameless, it is the D’s who are selling this pernicious ideology to voters.

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      • Most of the blame lies with progressives and progressivism.

        Which party passed the Medicare prescription program without a funding mechanism? I keep forgetting.

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        • yello:

          Which party passed the Medicare prescription program without a funding mechanism? I keep forgetting.

          Excellent point. Clearly this bill was the product of traditional conservative, not progressive, impulses. What was I thinking?

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  26. Scott,
    As long as the Republicans hold defense spending at current levels sacrosanct, they aren’t serious either. Aside from the math issues, you have to gore everyone’s oxen at the same time to do this politically.

    Matt Miller on the sequester today:

    “In rapid succession we heard the president say that 5 percent cuts in so-called “domestic discretionary” spending (and roughly 7 percent in defense) would impose “hardships” that were “brutal,” akin to being hacked with a “meat cleaver,” certain to “eviscerate” all we hold dear.

    I couldn’t scribble the scary words or looming disasters fast enough. Criminals would run free, planes might collide, teachers would be kicked to the curb, Al-Qaeda would be given an opening, and “emergency response” would be transformed into anything but. Tragically, today’s airport security lines – models of efficiency, as all who travel often can attest — would suddenly become the site of unthinkable delays.

    All thanks to a 5 percent cut.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. I oppose the sequester cuts. I’ve written for years that the long-term challenges we face are in the “mandatory” health and pension programs that make up the lion’s share of domestic spending, not the much smaller “discretionary” part that’s home to much of what we think of as government as well as much of the new investment (in research and infrastructure, for example) that the country needs.

    Still, the idea that a 5 percent cut will bring Armageddon is too much to stomach.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/matt-miller-dumb-and-dumber-on-the-sequester/2013/02/20/12a3c416-7b5b-11e2-82e8-61a46c2cde3d_story.html

    This first batch of cuts is going to be the easiest, not the hardest. The hard part will come later. If we can’t even do a 5% cut off of the post 2009 stimulus and elevated baseline, then we are doomed.

    One other observation Mark is that I don’t expect any of the sequester past this fiscal years (FY2013) and perhaps next fiscal years (FY2014) cuts to remain intact once a new Congress is seated. Out year deficit reduction is meaningless bullshit.

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    • Good link to Miller and history is unfortunately on your side as to the BS of out year deficit reduction. I thought your ten year plan was doable only in the best of worlds, as I tried to make clear. I amnot betting it will happen.

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    • jnc:

      As long as the Republicans hold defense spending at current levels sacrosanct, they aren’t serious either.

      I agree. That is why I welcome the sequester.

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  27. “If we can’t even do a 5% cut off of the post 2009 stimulus and elevated baseline, then we are doomed.’

    I’d agree with this. It’s the Washington Monument problem right now. It’s either reform the “such sums as necessary” aspect of Medicare or ratchet up taxes on everyone. or both.

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  28. If one character dying in Downton Abby has everyone up in arms, God help them if they watch Game of Thrones.

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  29. Mark, you should join NoVA and me for tea. Matthew was my favorite character; “Downton” is going to have to be careful to not jump the shark next season as they work the next story arc.

    Edith is in a dead-end relationship and Matthew’s dead. . . where in the world are they going with this?

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    • Rose and the Irish son in law, Branson. [Obvious, no?]

      Keeping Matthew’s reforms in tact through the Depression.

      The funerals of Maggie Smith and Shirley McLaine and Carson and Hughes.

      Anna as COO of the stripped down downstairs.

      The maturing of Matthew’s son into a WW2 airman who flies a Lancaster over Germany.

      WW2 and the END OF EMPIRE. Everybody dies.

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  30. “Game of Thrones”. . . ohhhhhhhh.

    Had never heard of it, but have just found out that (at least through season 3) it’s available on HBO’s website.

    Worth the time, jnc?

    And, hey! They killed Matthew!!!!

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  31. “Worth the time, jnc?”

    Yes, absolutely. I think you will like it a lot.

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  32. Also, watch the two seasons of Rome.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rome_%28TV_series%29

    Caesar’s triumph with Vercingetorix is worth seeing for the spectacle where Caesar is in full triumphal regalia.

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  33. Added to my Netflix queue.

    Have you seen “House of Cards”?

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  34. Game of Thrones is fantastic. HBO and the books. I’m mid-way through book 3 right now.

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  35. “Books” you say?? Oh ho!

    And I have to go to the library today, anyway.

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    • Warning: Each of the Game Of Thrones books is about a thousand pages long. And I hear Season 3 is only going to cover half of Book 3.

      But yes, it is not a series where one should get too committed to any single character.

      As for Downton Abbey, how about some spoiler alerts for those of us who haven’t even seen Season 2 yet? Just kidding ***wink***

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  36. yello: Weren’t you the one (along with shrink) who gave me grief about a spoiler alert regarding Voldemort two years after “Deathly Hallows” came out? I’m usually the one sadly lagging in popular culture. . .

    A thousand-page book is right up my alley–I thought that the first couple Harry Potter ones were much too short. 🙂 I’ll check out #1 today and see if it hooks me or not.

    Mark: you seem to have at least a couple of seasons’ story arcs all planned out–do the Downton writers know? And I didn’t know that there was a previous “House of Cards”; intriguing!

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  37. And, oh! I’d been meaning to say, does anyone know if they filmed the finale of Downton in the Highlands for real? Because, while the moors don’t look anything like what I remember (although I was there in May, so that may be why) I would swear I visited that castle/manor house.

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  38. Sigh: Looks like Matt Miller was right:

    “On defense, the case for cataclysm seems even crazier. When our defense budget has doubled from $350 billion to $700 billion in the last decade, and is orders of magnitude larger than that of any potential rival, a 7 or 8 percent trim can’t mean the sky must fall.

    That’s not to say that determined administrators can’t choose to make a 5 percent cut seem calamitous by cutting visible, important things. That’s the oldest budget con in Washington.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/matt-miller-dumb-and-dumber-on-the-sequester/2013/02/20/12a3c416-7b5b-11e2-82e8-61a46c2cde3d_story.html

    And right on schedule

    “Pentagon notifies civilian employees of impending furloughs barring budget deal
    By Ernesto Londoño, Wednesday, February 20, 11:09 AM

    The Defense Department officially notified its 800,000 civilian employees on Wednesday that they are likely to be placed on periods of unpaid leave as the Pentagon scrambles to find $46 billion in congressionally mandated budget cuts that appear all but certain to kick in next week.

    “There is no mistaking that the rigid nature of the cuts forced upon this department, and their scale, will result in a serious erosion of readiness across the force,” Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta said to employees in a memo issued Wednesday.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/pentagon-notifies-civilian-employees-of-impending-furloughs-barring-budget-deal/2013/02/20/d0ce836e-7b73-11e2-82e8-61a46c2cde3d_story.html?hpid=z1

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  39. jnc: the thought springs to mind of noses and cutting off, doesn’t it?

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  40. essential benefits reg just dropped

    http://www.ofr.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2013-04084_PI.pdf

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  41. No, more Kabuki Michi.

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  42. Good summation:

    “How new tax rates will affect you in 2013”

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505146_162-57562381/how-new-tax-rates-will-affect-you-in-2013/

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  43. No, more Kabuki Michi.

    Shit’s getting real, as the kidz used to say not too long ago.

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  44. i’ll have an answer to that in the next day or so, yellow. it had to be published so i could find out what’s in it. .

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  45. he said last week he was traveling.

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  46. will do mark –it’s sitting on my desk. i’ll have to get to it later this week.

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  47. Brent’s on the Left Coast on business.

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  48. Corked by Michi.

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  49. Magic Eight Ball says future is uncertain:

    “Fed minutes: Lots of talk on bond-buying, no firm conclusions on what’s next for monetary policy

    Posted by Neil Irwin on February 20, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Top Fed officials had a wide-ranging discussion last month over their strategy for pumping billions of dollars into the economy in 2013, but reached no firm conclusions on where U.S. monetary policy goes from here, according to minutes of their Jan. 29-30 meeting released Wednesday.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/02/20/fed-minutes-lots-of-talk-no-firm-conclusions-on-whats-next-for-monetary-policy/

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  50. According to Wonkblog, here is one change included that is not now normal and customary:

    [The Adminstration] decided that insurance companies cannot charge patients for the removal of a polyp during a recommended colonoscopy.

    It seems this happens in a small but significant proportion of examinees.

    This gives me a reason to put this procedure off until the requirement goes into effect.

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  51. progressive republicans.

    kidding — sort of.

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  52. Scott, just separate out conservatism as a philosophy from the Republican party as an institution. The lesson from the Bush years is that if the Republicans have unified control of the government they will not, in fact, cut spending.

    If you want deficit reduction and spending constraints, divided government is required.

    Like

    • Gotta say that history is with JNC on this. We do not have a minimalist party in America. We have two parties with differing orders of priority.

      Like

      • mark:

        Gotta say that history is with JNC on this.

        Not according to the numbers I have seen.

        We do not have a minimalist party in America.

        That is surely true. But we do have a maximumist party, and that is undeniably the D’s. I think it is absolute folly to pretend that there is no difference between the two parties with regard to a desire/willingness to spend.

        Like

    • jnc:

      If you want deficit reduction and spending constraints, divided government is required.

      The numbers do not bear this out, as I pointed out many months ago. While it is true that over the last 50 years the most restrained spending has occurred under a D executive and an R congress, it is also true that an R executive combined with a D congress has produced spending growth second only to an entirely D government. The numbers suggest that the best way to restrain spending is to elect an R congress, the second best way is to elect a split congress, and the worst way is to elect an entirely D congress. An entirely R government (both executive and legislative) has produced the second lowest growth in spending…although admittedly the data points for that are few.

      The idea that there is no difference between R’s and D’s when it comes to government spending is a myth propagated largely by Democrat-voting self-declared deficit hawks to make themselves feel better about voting for high-spending D’s. I agree that the restraint of R’s is not what it should be, but they should not be equated to the D’s who, as I pointed out earlier, like to spend OPM as a matter of principle.

      Like

  53. George Will said a long time ago that Americans must love divided government because they vote for it so often.

    Like

  54. jnc and Mark both said it better than I could.

    Like

  55. FWIW, I had lunch yesterday with a 3 senior people from HUD. Their staffing has increased something like 25% over the last few years, and they intend to add another 15% or so. They don’t think the sequester will affect them at all..

    So basically, the people who should be concerned are not, and their payroll is increasing at a pretty healthy clip. I can’t imagine their experience is any different than any other agency.

    The sequestration is going to be a non-event IMO…

    Like

  56. ” the idea that a 5 percent cut will bring Armageddon is too much to stomach.”

    Armageddon sounds so dramatic. What is less clear is how many people are actually using such rhetoric. I think the thoughtful critics are more concerned with the impact of GDP shrinkage on a fragile recovery. Of particular concern is the impact a round of layoffs will have on the unemployment rate & consumer confidence.

    Like

    • While I hope Brent is right, I do think there will be displacements and a slowing of growth if the sequester holds up for a year and is not defused by the next CR. Like JNC, I do not have any faith the budget cuts will hold.

      Brian, if the economy grows in the private sector even as the federal government shrinks 5% the displacement will be small. But I agree with you, it will be real, especially for schools. TX is set to lose $500M in fed funding for its public schools.

      Like

  57. The gold bugs make their case.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/02/why-does-virginia-want-a-backup-gold-currency/273288/

    The fact that this reads as a sane critique of current Fed policy should scare everyone here.

    Like

  58. Mark, agreed, it is possible that private sector job growth will continue to offset the declining public sector workforce. But that’s not what we need. We need workforce growth & rising cashflow through consumers. Flat wages can be good for corporate profits, but don’t do much for reviving the consumer economy.

    Like

  59. he idea that there is no difference between R’s and D’s when it comes to government spending

    Of course there is. You’re making a very facile argument, which completely ignores what the spending it on. But Republicans like to spend money fully as much as Democrats do.

    Like

    • Mich:

      But Republicans like to spend money fully as much as Democrats do.

      Then why has government spending historically grown most when Dems control congress, and least when R’s control congress?

      Like

  60. Scott:

    Until you take into account what government spending is on your argument is meaningless.

    Like

    • Mich:

      Until you take into account what government spending is on your argument is meaningless.

      No it isn’t. It is perfectly meaningful, even if you find its meaning inconvenient to your politics.

      But in fact I actually agree that what the government spends money on is important. Their beliefs about the purpose of government and what it should be spending money on is precisely what makes progressives such huge spenders relative to conservatives.

      Like

  61. “Until you take into account what government spending is on your argument is meaningless.”

    Why, when the conversation seems to focus on total spending growth? If we’re arguing about total spending growth, and whether it is too high or too small, it’s a different argument than what the government is spending our money on.

    What’s interesting to me is to hear the argument about Federal spending coming out of the WhiteHouse. I certainly could be wrong, but I don’t think the President believes or says that the government spends too much money overall. What he tends to say is that the government spends too much money on some things, like healthcare, and not enough on other things, like (snicker) Green Energy(!) what is at odds here is the President’s desire to reorder existing spending, and increase the overall level while the R’s are claiming that the overall amount of government spending should be lower. These two beliefs are complete opposites and since the D’s control the Executive and the Senate, I suspect that their ideas will and have prevailed.

    What do the posters here say? I think the government (the Federal government) can and should be spending significantly less. Like trillions less. But what about everybody else?

    Who thinks total Federal expenditures are too high and should be reduced?

    Who thinks the the government spends just the right amount?

    Who thinks the government doesn’t spend enough?

    Like

  62. Scott, I think you need to plug DHS and two wars into your equation before you start talking about “huge spenders.”

    Like

    • Mich:

      Scott, I think you need to plug DHS and two wars into your equation before you start talking about “huge spenders.”

      I think the government spent way too much when Bush was President, too, but my growth in spending analysis includes that spending. The numbers show what they show, even if you don’t like what they show.

      BTW, why is it that when jnc and Mark claim that R’s and D’s are equally big spenders without referencing any data at all, you find the claim not just meaningful but so meaningful that you yourself “couldn’t have said it better”, but when I make a counterclaim with actual data, my claim is “facile” and “meaningless”? I get the sense that your judgement of a given claim has a whole more to do with who says it than what is actually said. That’s not very scientific, if you ask me.

      Like

      • FYI, for some reason the link to my old analysis seems to take me to a slightly earlier comment. If others are having the same problem, the comment I am trying to link to was posted at 6:30 pm on Sep 4, 2012.

        Like

    • Are we spending significantly less on military action now? Has the Defense budget really gone down? I’m asking because I’m too lazy to go look up the actual numbers. 😉

      Like

  63. $44 billion? that’s less than one year of Medicare fraud.

    If we can’t handle that, I better start welding scrap metal to my station wagon. make it look mean.

    Like

  64. “D president/R congress (8 yrs): 1.492%”

    I stand by my premise. If you want spending restraint, you need divided government. There has to be a political benefit from blocking the other branches spending proposals. Gridlock is a feature, not a bug.

    Like

    • jnc:

      I stand by my premise. If you want spending restraint, you need divided government.

      And yet when we had divided government wit a R executive and a D congress, we had growth almost equal to growth with an entirely Democraticaly controlled government, which represented the greatest growth of all.

      The numbers pretty clearly suggest that simple divided government is not enough, and that far more important than divided government is keeping Dems from controlling congress. When Dems control congress, it doesn’t matter which party controls the presidency, spending growth is high. When D’s only control one house of congress, growth is somewhat smaller, again no matter who is president, and when R’s control both houses, spending growth is smallest. It may make sense to argue for a D president and an R congress to produce the optimum gridlock and restrained spending, but if you are not focused on keeping D’s out of congress, then you are not really focused on controlling spending.

      Like

      • @ScottC: ” and when R’s control both houses, spending growth is smallest. ”

        Is that true universally? Seemed like spending was still on an upward tick when The Rs controlled both houses under Bush (though didn’t get any better when Dems took the senate), but of course Bush was a big government conservative. Alas, it ain’t just the party affiliation . . . it’s the philosophical orientation of the majority of those with their hands on the purse strings, and how consistently they adhere to said philosophy after they’ve spent some time controlling other people’s money. 😉

        Like

  65. Armageddon sounds so dramatic. What is less clear is how many people are actually using such rhetoric. I think the thoughtful critics are more concerned with the impact of GDP shrinkage on a fragile recovery. Of particular concern is the impact a round of layoffs will have on the unemployment rate & consumer confidence.

    Well, given that Democrats were pretty unconcerned about the economic effects of increasing taxes by something like 240B this year (between the obamacare surtaxes, the expiration of the payroll tax cut, and the tax the rich thing (does it have a name?)), I find it a little too convenient that they are worried about cutting spending by 1/3 of that amount… (even less if you count the requested increase in government spending this year).

    Like

  66. NoVA, I don’t really see you as a station wagon kinda guy. . .

    Like

  67. http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/wagons/112_0804_2009_volkswagen_jetta_sportwagen_first_drive/viewall.html

    It’s got more cargo space than an SUV, which is great for:
    1. a 3-year old
    2. a coonhound
    3. hockey gear
    4. fire department gear
    5. IKEA

    JNC and I were talking about it. i think “man-wagon” is what the kids are calling it.

    Like

  68. “Man-wagon”

    OK. . . . . . .

    (j/k: I drive a CR-V myself [which I hate]–I lust after a Mini Cooper S)

    Like

  69. really? why don’t you like the CRV? that’s the first negative I’ve heard.

    my sister-in-law drives a mini. i’ve driven it a few times. loads of fun, but not really practical.

    Like

  70. Wasn’t my car to start off with, but it was the one I ended up with. I want the Mini because I want one thing in my life to be impractical.

    Like

  71. in that case get the ragtop.

    Like

  72. Dang. It was supposed to load my Mini. British Racing Green with toffee leather interior.

    Like

  73. that does sound fun.

    Like

  74. I’d really like “The Italian Job” build, but that’s a little cost prohibitive.

    Like

  75. Scott ran an analysis and posted the numbers in a previous post that’s linked further up in this thread. I believe he’s correct on the individual year budgets, but I’d argue that there’s a shortcoming in his methodology in that the large, permanent programs that generate structural deficits such as the original Medicare and then Part D tend to result from one party control of Congress and the Presidency.

    Like

    • jnc:

      I’d argue that there’s a shortcoming in his methodology in that the large, permanent programs that generate structural deficits such as the original Medicare and then Part D tend to result from one party control of Congress and the Presidency.

      That may be true, and it would be interesting to see an analysis of that. But we were talking about spending, not deficits. If there were no deficit at all right now, ie even if taxes were raised such that revenue covered all spending, I still would argue that the government spends too much, and it would still be the case that growth in government spending is positively correlated with Democratic control of congress and not simply with divided government of any sort.

      Like

  76. Everyone should go to the Washington Post home page and note the seal giving you the sad eyes over the sequester cuts.

    “Kjya, a grey seal, is one of the new zoo acquisitions. (Sarah L. Voisin/Post)

    Cuts could hurt National Zoo plans

    Steve Hendrix 12:46 PM ET

    Zoo’s keepers and curators will keep working and animals will be fed, but steep cuts might mean fewer animals on display.”

    Like

  77. Stop the sequester or we shoot this dog, er, seal.

    Shoot this dog

    Like

  78. More sequester hysteria:

    If you take 8 percent of that 10 percent, it’s going to come from new science, new people, young investigators; we are going to maim our innovation capabilities if you do these abrupt deep cuts at NIH. It will impact science for generations to come.

    The rest of the interview isn’t quite that hyperbolic but the point is valid. These sorts of chainsaw cuts are the worst possible way to curb government spending.

    Like

  79. Scott is talking his book. There’s nothing wrong with it, but I take his numbers with a grain of salt.

    Like

    • Mich:

      I take his numbers with a grain of salt.

      Of course you do. But they are not my numbers. I provided a link to the source material on annual federal outlays, from the White House Website, in my original. You are free to run your own analysis if you doubt mine. I look forward to your results.

      Like

  80. Are we spending significantly less on military action now?

    Ezra Klein makes the case (with graphs) that military cuts are following normal post-war declines while non-security discretionary spending is being decimated.

    Like

  81. the zoo is full of it. and i’m a FONZ (friend of the natioanl zoo) member.

    they do fundraising very successfully. my favorite is “brew at the zoo” nothing like drunks and wild animals. that’s a good night out.

    Like

  82. The gold bugs make their case.

    The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond used to have an underground hardened bunker in Culpeper, Virginia holding one trillion dollars in cash to jump start the economy when The Bombs fell. When we won the Cold War, they converted the site into the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center, a film restoration and cold storage facility run by the Library of Congress.

    Perhaps Virginia can try to turn it into the Old Dominion Fort Knox.

    Like

  83. FONZ sounds like something I’d join; do they do concerts?

    Like

  84. they have a “national membership” for those who don’t live in the area.

    http://nationalzoo.si.edu/events/default.cfm

    Like

  85. “yellojkt, on February 21, 2013 at 12:43 pm said:

    The rest of the interview isn’t quite that hyperbolic but the point is valid. These sorts of chainsaw cuts are the worst possible way to curb government spending.”

    Generations to come from a 5% cut. The hysteria is creating the Boy Who Cried Wolf effect.

    And the worst possible way to curb government spending is to not curb it at all. That’s the alternative to the sequester.

    Like

    • jnc:

      And the worst possible way to curb government spending is to not curb it at all.

      Heh.

      It’s difficult for me not to conclude that that is precisely the goal for many who whine about the across-the-board nature of the sequester. They don’t really want to cut spending at all.

      McWing posed a legitimate question to the group last night. It’s unfortunate that no one except me could be bothered to answer.

      Like

  86. yello’s “hysteria” quote is actually very true. It has been happening since about 2005 due to the wars, and it’s continuing now. It’s why I’m out of a job.

    Like

  87. michi,
    I read that and thought of you as a case study. In the bigger picture, this is part and parcel of the conservative war on basic science. I know an astrophysicist who spends nearly all his time chasing grants rather than doing research.

    Like

    • yello:

      In the bigger picture, this is part and parcel of the conservative war on basic science.

      The only place such a war exists is in the fevered imaginations of delusional leftists.

      Like

  88. And the worst possible way to curb government spending is to not curb it at all.

    Heh.

    It’s difficult for me not to conclude that that is precisely the goal for many who whine about the across-the-board nature of the sequester. They don’t really want to cut spending at all.

    And what of it? There is an a priori question-begging assumption (particularly on this board) that government spending is too high. By what standard? Each individual program should be judged on its own merit. There are programs where we are spending way too much money (defense procurement, agricultural subsidies) and places where we should be spending a lot more (national parks, transportation infrastructure) but to just assume that government spending is too high either out of libertarian rigor or deficit hysteria is too limiting. We should define the role and scope of government and then fund it adequately.

    But blanket across the board cuts throw out a lot of babies in that bath water. Chainsaws are very ineffective weight loss tools.

    Like

    • yello:

      And what of it?

      I prefer a more honest approach.

      We should define the role and scope of government and then fund it adequately.

      The Constitution already defined the role and scope of the government. Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to matter to many people, including progressives.

      As always, a cogent non-inflammatory rebuttal

      The predictable and mindless characterization of any opposition to the government funding of liberal desires as a “war on” this or that doesn’t deserve a cogent, non-inflammatory rebuttal. As ever, it is bullshit and deserves nothing but contempt.

      Like

  89. The only place such a war exists is in the fevered imaginations of delusional leftists.

    As always, a cogent non-inflammatory rebuttal.

    From Ron Paul to Marco Rubio, the blatantly anti-science pronouncements from conservatives are too bountiful to enumerate. Paul Broun (R-GA) who sits on the House Science Committee said “All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the big bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell.” If that isn’t a declaration of war, I don’t know what is.

    Like

  90. The only place such a war exists is in the fevered imaginations of delusional leftists.

    Scott, this is both rude and stupid.

    I prefer a more honest approach.

    No, you prefer an approach in which you are always kowtowed to and looked up to. Find it at home, because you won’t find it here.

    Like

    • Mich:

      Scott, this is both rude and stupid.

      I take it, then, that you too are among the gullible who actually believe in this foolishness about conservative “wars”.

      No, you prefer an approach in which you are always kowtowed to and looked up to…

      You sure have me pegged, Mich. That’s exactly what I want, which is why I do all my commenting here…because I am so often kowtowed and looked up to at ATiM. LOL.

      And I mean, really, LOL.

      Like

  91. “ScottC, on February 21, 2013 at 2:01 pm said:

    jnc:

    I’d argue that there’s a shortcoming in his methodology in that the large, permanent programs that generate structural deficits such as the original Medicare and then Part D tend to result from one party control of Congress and the Presidency.

    That may be true, and it would be interesting to see an analysis of that. But we were talking about spending, not deficits.”

    Ok, large permanent entitlement programs that generate the majority of federal spending seem to be the product of one party control of Congress and the executive. The spending for those programs continues long after the Congress and the President who enacted them have left office. That’s how an argument can be made that the bulk of the deficits in President Obama’s term come from “Bush policies” (not that I buy the argument).

    I’d argue that a major driver of higher spending is the ability for the government to spend money without ever having an annual vote or any vote on the appropriation past the time that the criteria for benefits were originally enacted.

    The number one structural change I would make would be to make all spending subject to the annual appropriations process.

    Like

    • jnc:

      Ok, large permanent entitlement programs that generate the majority of federal spending seem to be the product of one party control of Congress and the executive.

      Unfortunately we do not have a lot of data points for Republican control of both Congress and the executive. Is there anything besides the medicare bill passed under Bush that qualifies as an example? If not, how do we know that that is the rule, and not an exception?

      Like

  92. “What do the posters here say? I think the government (the Federal government) can and should be spending significantly less. Like trillions less. But what about everybody else?

    Who thinks total Federal expenditures are too high and should be reduced?

    Who thinks the the government spends just the right amount?

    Who thinks the government doesn’t spend enough?”

    Well, it should be obvious from past commentary that I’m in the “too high and should be reduced category”. However, I’d cut entitlements more and domestic discretionary less.

    Like

  93. Scott’s right. There’s no “conservative war on basic science” in terms of an organized effort to get rid of science in the United States and substitute something else. There are a bunch of individual fights over various government funding programs for certain scientific endeavors based on cost considerations, appropriateness vs leaving it to the private sector and religious/ethical considerations.

    Rhetorical constructs such as “war on science” simply make me discount the argument being offered.

    Like

  94. Rhetorical constructs such as “war on science” simply make me discount the argument being offered.

    There is one political party that is pushing an anti-science agenda, for whatever reason–and sure they’re trying to substitute something else. They’re trying to substitute their religious beliefs. Just because it isn’t happening on a day-to-day basis in the halls of Congress doesn’t mean that the Republicans aren’t doing it every single day in different state legislatures. And in school districts. And when you’ve got a representative on the House Science Committee who believes that evolution is an idea from the devil, don’t tell me that that guy can judge spending on science on its merits.

    Just because you don’t like a hyperbolic rhetorical device doesn’t mean that there isn’t a fight going on.

    Like

    • Mich:

      There is one political party that is pushing an anti-science agenda…

      No there isn’t. Again, it is a myth. Opposition to policies that are either designed to fund science that liberals want to fund or that are allegedly the result of “science” does not constitue an anti-science agenda. Framing it as such is just a liberal attempt to frame a political debate advantageously and win the debate without actually engaging in it.

      Like

  95. ” In the bigger picture, this is part and parcel of the conservative war on basic science.”

    Jesus, Scott! How dare you interpret this as hyperbolic and insulting. It’s an absolute, unchallengeable, literal fact. A War! With guns and shit!

    Christ, what a wingnut! Denial anoint just a river in Egypt.

    Like

  96. McWing: I live in Utah. Don’t try to tell me that there aren’t conservative politicians voting to impose their world view on me each and every day. You may not like the fact that they’re Republicans, but that’s your problem. They are.

    Like

    • Mich:

      I live in Utah. Don’t try to tell me that there aren’t conservative politicians voting to impose their world view on me each and every day.

      If you don’t like what conservative politicians in Utah are imposing on you, there is a simple solution. Move to a more liberal state. You don’t need a passport, you don’t need a visa, you don’t need an employer to sponsor you. Just move. Easy peasy.

      It is hard to take seriously complaints from liberals about state conservatives imposing their unwanted will on a given state when the entire progressive project entails imposing the liberal worldview on the entire nation using the federal government precisely in order to make it as difficult as possible for those who object to escape it.

      Like

  97. Finally! Challah worth posting:

    Arrrrrrgggggggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

    Why can’t I post a picture of my perfect loaf of bread???

    Like

  98. One quick comment…………………….Yo, Kevin. What a treat to make my weekly rounds and see my buddy Kevin posting. Wish he’d had a little more to say.

    Like

  99. allegedly the result of “science”

    Golly. . . like “evolution”? Or perhaps you have a beef with “gravity”. The Republican party has wrapped both its arms around an anti-science agenda and is pushing it as hard as it can. Face it.

    You have no interest in anything that you don’t understand and that people aren’t willing to admit that you know more than them about. You still can’t let go of the fact that several of us “scientists” wouldn’t agree with you about scientific “facts.”

    You may disagree with the use of the term “war” and we could discuss that. But there is no doubt that the Republican party, as it operates now, is anti-science and anti-women. And, yeah, I take that personally.

    Like

    • Mich:

      Golly. . . like “evolution”? Or perhaps you have a beef with “gravity”.

      What I said was “Opposition to policies that are…allegedly the result of “science” does not constitue an anti-science agenda.” I am unaware of any liberal policies that ostensibly derive from evolution or gravity, although I suppose I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear you make the claim that there are.

      The Republican party has wrapped both its arms around an anti-science agenda and is pushing it as hard as it can.

      I have no doubt that you really believe this, just as fundamentalists really believe in the story of genesis. Blind faith is a curious thing.

      You have no interest in anything that you don’t understand and that people aren’t willing to admit that you know more than them about.

      Again, you sure have me pegged, Mich. That is why I hang out here…because people so often “admit” that I know more than them. LOL.

      You still can’t let go of the fact that several of us “scientists” wouldn’t agree with you about scientific “facts.”

      You seem to have a specific instance in mind, but for the life of me I have no idea what you are talking about. Do tell.

      But there is no doubt that the Republican party, as it operates now, is anti-science and anti-women.

      Is that a scientific conclusion? Heh.

      Like

      • A flood occurred here since I last looked in.

        I see that I misunderstood one of JNC’s points with which I agreed.

        I carelessly thought we were discussing fiscal balance as opposed to reduced spending. My recollection is that RWR greatly unbalanced the budget when he had an R Congress and that so did GWB. I think that looking only at spending, Scott has presented good homework. I think that is not enough, however. Massive tax cuts coupled with minor spending reductions, or much worse, coupled with two elective wars, are very irresponsible. Raising taxes and cutting spending, or even holding spending level, can be very responsible. IMHO.

        Libertarians whose agenda is merely to reduce elective spending not required by the constitution to zero, or put another way, whose agenda is to limit government spending to public goods as opposed to promoting the general welfare, are very important as counterweights to a common view that government is simply an unlimited funding source for various wish lists, although the wish lists are different for different regions, states, and lobbies. And it is hard to reject allies when we find them. But allying with religious nuts who justify cutting spending on sci/tech research b/c it is the devil’s work permits sane proponents of sci/tech research spending to characterize the opposition as anti-science, because it is, even if Scott, for example, is not.

        Politics makes strange bedfellows, and devil believers and agnostics are certainly that.

        George, in my more perfect world the federal government would be much smaller. I don’t have time to write a wish list of my own, but I will think about it and cull my previous comments here for a compendium at some point. My revenue system would be different and would collect enough to have surpluses in good years and deficits in bad years and balance over a cycle, although I don’t know how to budget for a war or an unexpected disaster. So even my ideal budgeting would be thrown for a loop on occasion. I haven’t thought it out to where it really balances absent a lasting peace.

        Like

        • Mark:

          But allying with religious nuts who justify cutting spending on sci/tech research b/c it is the devil’s work permits sane proponents of sci/tech research spending to characterize the opposition as anti-science, because it is, even if Scott, for example, is not.

          So a political alliance between two (or more) groups who share the same goal but for different reasons justifies their political opponents in characterizing the alliance as having a single motivation, and the most easily addressed one at that? Sorry, Mark, but I disagree. Honesty and clear thinking ought to compel the political opposition to acknowledge that there are various motivations at work, and to address those motivations on the merits, not pretend that everyone has the same motivation in order to avoid addressing the more difficult arguments.

          Declaring that the Republican agenda is anti-science or anti-women (or anti-whatever the liberal flavor of the day is) is simple-minded and foolish.

          Like

        • Mark:

          Do you think it is legitimate to characterize liberal desires to redistribute wealth as a “war on success” or as anti-success simply because progressives have forged an alliance with non-wealthy people who do in fact support wealth redistribution efforts out of resentment of those who have been financially successful?

          Like

  100. Troll,
    Those links don’t say what you think they do. Both acknowledge immediately that the Republican agenda is wildly anti-science. The argument that they are trying to make is that liberals are just as selectively myopic about scientific research by focusing on fringe environmental groups with an alleged anti-growth agenda. It’s a very weak Rubber-Glue Attack.

    Also, part of the Republican MO even among non members of the evangelical fringe is to ridicule federally funded scientific research as trivial and wasteful. Here is John Boehner in the WSJ:

    Meanwhile, no one should be talking about raising taxes when the government is still paying people to play videogames, giving folks free cellphones, and buying $47,000 cigarette-smoking machines.

    Ignoring the Obamaphone dogwhistle, he is mocking basic heart disease research. You can argue that public health research is not the proper role of government (because the free market as supported by the tobacco industry has done so much important research into the safety of their products) but to ridicule it as frivolous at any level is just mean-spirited.

    Like

  101. “Those links don’t say what you think they do. Both acknowledge immediately that the Republican agenda is wildly anti-science. The argument that they are trying to make is that liberals are just as selectively myopic about scientific research by focusing on fringe environmental groups with an alleged anti-growth agenda. It’s a very weak Rubber-Glue Attack.

    Damn! Checkmated once again by the “That’s Different” gambit.

    (Hangs head in shame and slinks away)

    Like

  102. ” I don’t have time to write a wish list of my own,”

    then it’s too long of a list 🙂

    Like

  103. then it’s too long of a list

    Elevator version of a lobbyist’s list? 🙂

    Like

  104. Declaring that the Republican agenda is anti-science or anti-women (or anti-whatever the liberal flavor of the day is) is simple-minded and foolish.

    Only if you don’t take Republican politician’s at their word.

    Like

  105. you have to keep the list short. you’re talking with elected officials. not exactly top of the class here.

    Like

  106. But, but, but Ted Cruz! Harvard!!

    (I’m beginning to think that Harvard shouldn’t carry the cachet that it historically has. But then, I’ve thought that for about 30 years now).

    Funny thing is, I’m all for smaller government.

    Like

  107. Do you think it is legitimate to characterize liberal desires to redistribute wealth as a “war on success”…

    Perhaps Amazon should offer up these two books with a package discount:

    http://www.amazon.com/War-Success-Agenda-Shattering-American/dp/1596981180
    http://www.amazon.com/Republican-War-Science-Chris-Mooney/dp/0465046762

    At the very least, you get free shipping if you order both.

    If Obama is waging a War On Success, he isn’t doing a very good job as income disparity continues to increase. However, the War On Science seems to be going swimmingly:

    On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Common Education committee is expected to consider a House bill that would forbid teachers from penalizing students who turn in papers attempting to debunk almost universally accepted scientific theories such as biological evolution and anthropogenic (human-driven) climate change.

    Like

    • yello:

      If Obama is waging a War On Success…

      I don’t think he is, any more than I think Republicans are waging a war on science. I think both characterizations are rhetorical devices designed to appeal to the simple-minded. But if Mark is right it seems fair to me to use the characterization.

      Like

  108. liberal desires to redistribute wealth as a “war on success”

    Drat! He’s on to us!

    *disappears in a NoVA® puff of smoke*

    Like

  109. In all seriousness, does a belief in a Supreme Being, God if you will, who created, er, existence, mean one is at “War with Science?” Because that belief would then negate evolution, for example, which seems to be a pillar on the (snicker) “War on Science” Democratic talking point.

    Like

    • In all seriousness, it all depends on how literally you take the first chapter of Genesis. Faith and science are not mutually exclusive (although there are many Evangelical Atheists who believe so) but recognizing that The Bible is not an adequate science textbook is a vital first step in reconciling the two.

      Like

  110. does a belief in a Supreme Being, God if you will, who created, er, existence, mean one is at “War with Science?

    No. See, for instance, Francis Collins.

    [Edited to remove a snark that I shouldn’t have posted in the first place.]

    Like

  111. “No. See, for instance, Francis Collins. And your (snicker) is not actually funny.”

    Why doesn’t a belief in a Creator make one a Creationist? I suspect that, in the polling, Intelligent Design is classified with Creationism and therefore counted as not believing in evolution, a War on Sciencer’.

    And I call bullshit! (snicker) is very funny!

    Like

  112. Why doesn’t a belief in a Creator make one a Creationist?

    Because Collins is a good scientist (and by “good” I don’t mean toeing the line, I mean a person who weighs facts); There are actually quite a large number of scientists who are very religious. They’re just not stupid, which is what creationists are.

    And Republican politicians who are creationists are trying to impose that belief on others, despite all evidence to the contrary. They are, indeed, engaged in war; if you asked them, that’s what they’d tell you.

    Like

  113. Food for thought:

    Are activists who oppose vaccines, genetically altered crops and smart power meters also waging a “war on science”? Opposition to those policies cuts across the traditional right/left ideological line.

    More fundamentally, this divide exposes the problems with expecting the government to be the primary driver of things like scientific research using public funds derived from taxation. The essence of democratic legitimacy is that people who don’t agree with you get a vote too. When they go against your preferred position, it’s not a “war” on you any more so than using their tax dollars to fund your preferred position is a “war” on them.

    Or to put it another way, once the government is involved in a democracy, there’s no way to realistically avoid putting science up for a majority vote.

    Like

  114. This is what prompted my musing:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2013/02/pertussis_epidemic_how_vermont_s_anti_vaxxer_activists_stopped_a_vaccine.html

    Does the state have the right to force vaccines on children whose parents object to them?

    Like

    • Vaccines seem to be where the hippy dippy intersect with the libertarian. The safest position is to be the one unimmunized person in a cohort with herd immunity. Only there is a dangerous Prisoner’s Dilemma aspect to just how to pull this off. Wallowing in pseudo-science and/or crying “Freeedumb!” seem to be the most common paths, whether intentional or not. I have a right to not be infected by an avoidable communicable disease brought on by someone else’s ignorance or intransigence. Right now immunization is being used as a carrot and stick. It’s required for school enrollment so it’s not technically compulsory but de facto it is. And while illness or death from reactions are tragic and should be avoided, they aren’t quite the scapegoat the loonies make them out to be.

      Like

  115. Well, what separates Creationist who believe in a Supreme Being from “good scientist[s]” who believe in a Supreme Being? Doesn’t the belief in a Supreme Being mean a belief in a Supreme Creator. A belief in a Supreme Creator negates a belief in natural evolution. Ergo, “good scientist[s]” waging a “War on Science.”

    Like

    • A belief in a Supreme Creator negates a belief in natural evolution.

      Surely not.

      But if Mark is right it seems fair to me to use the characterization.

      Quite so.

      Probably gone ’til Sunday. Keep the home fires burning. Get Kevin back.

      Like

  116. The essence of democratic legitimacy is that people who don’t agree with you get a vote too. When they go against your preferred position, it’s not a “war” on you any more so than using their tax dollars to fund your preferred position is a “war” on them.

    Sure it is, when the facts are not on their side. You have a right to your own opinion, you don't have a right to your own facts.

    Like

    • Mich:

      Sure it is, when the facts are not on their side.

      Government policy is not about “facts”. It is about forcing the will/worldview of some people on others who object to it.

      This is a conceit of progressives…they actually think that their policy preferences flow inevitably and inexorably from established facts.

      Like

  117. “And Republican politicians who are creationists are trying to impose that belief on others”

    all the more reason to separate education and state then.

    or corked by jnc. if you don’t want legislators setting educational standards, don’t make schools part of the political process. but everything is political anymore.

    Like

    • nova:

      if you don’t want legislators setting educational standards, don’t make schools part of the political process.

      But they obviously do want legislators setting educational standards. They just object to it being the “wrong” ones.

      Liberals have no principled desire for freedom. They only want freedom when it is the freedom to do things liberals approve of.

      Like

  118. Doesn’t the belief in a Supreme Being mean a belief in a Supreme Creator

    You need to take this up with Dr. Collins.

    Like

  119. “markinaustin, on February 22, 2013 at 5:53 am said:

    A flood occurred here since I last looked in.

    I see that I misunderstood one of JNC’s points with which I agreed.

    I carelessly thought we were discussing fiscal balance as opposed to reduced spending. My recollection is that RWR greatly unbalanced the budget when he had an R Congress and that so did GWB. “

    This is an inaccurate recollection. RWR never had a Republican Congress. Republicans took control of the Senate for the first six years and then it switched back during the last two, but the House was under Democratic control the entire time as part of the 40 year span of Democratic control.

    See the 97th – 100th U.S. Congresses.

    I’m concerned with both deficits and spending, but I tend to focus on what level of spending will be needed to align with the post WW II revenue range of 18 – 20% of GDP.

    Like

  120. “Michigoose, on February 22, 2013 at 9:03 am said:

    The essence of democratic legitimacy is that people who don’t agree with you get a vote too. When they go against your preferred position, it’s not a “war” on you any more so than using their tax dollars to fund your preferred position is a “war” on them.

    Sure it is, when the facts are not on their side. You have a right to your own opinion, you don’t have a right to your own facts.”

    Evolution is a theory, not a law. It happens to be the best theory that fits the currently known facts until we discover evidence of the space aliens that actually set everything in motion.

    Regardless, people are going to vote based on their opinions. In a democracy, theirs counts just as much as yours does.

    Like

  121. “yellojkt, on February 22, 2013 at 9:12 am said:

    Vaccines seem to be where the hippy dippy intersect with the libertarian. “

    So are genetically modified crops and smart power meters, which is why I chose those three examples of opposition to public polices that cuts across party lines and also disregards science and factual evidence.

    Like

  122. In a democracy, theirs counts just as much as yours does.

    Not when it comes to policy making.

    Facts are facts are facts are facts are facts. And calling something a “theory” (while I understand that you’re being funny, others aren’t) in order to disparage it doesn’t make it any less true.

    Like

    • Not when it comes to policy making.

      The true authoritarian in all progressives eventually comes to the fore, one way or another.

      Like

  123. Scott: yeah, facts are hard.

    Like

  124. “Not when it comes to policy making.”

    No, it’s exactly the opposite. Facts are irrelevant. it’s about wielding political power to your advantage and purpose.

    you take facts, I take procedure. and i’ll win every single time.

    if you want fact to win the day, set up shop outside the political arena.

    Like

  125. Liberals have no principled desire for freedom.

    You forgot to call them delusional and simple-minded.

    Like

    • yello:

      You forgot to call them delusional and simple-minded.

      I was a actually thinking that a reference to the liberal war on freedom was more suitable to the moment, but refrained.

      Like

  126. you take facts, I take procedure. and i’ll win every single time

    Doesn’t seem like the best way to run a first world country, does it? I wonder what the Much Revered Founding Fathers would have to say about running a country on superstition.

    Like

  127. “Michigoose, on February 22, 2013 at 9:18 am said:

    In a democracy, theirs counts just as much as yours does.

    Not when it comes to policy making.

    Facts are facts are facts are facts are facts. And calling something a “theory” (while I understand that you’re being funny, others aren’t) in order to disparage it doesn’t make it any less true.”

    I was actually not trying to be funny (other than the space alien part) but pointing out that when one uses the actual scientific method there are rigorous standards to what is considered a scientific law and what is a theory. There’s a reason evolution is a theory and not a law and that’s because of the (current) inability to reproduce the process in a controlled environment. Now, as I said it’s a rigorous theory that currently fits the known facts better than any other alternative but it’s not the same thing as gravity or E=MC2.

    And yes, if policy making involved spending public funds collected through taxation, then their votes do legitimately count as much as yours. It’s part of the reason why Churchill said that “democ­racy is the worst form of Gov­ern­ment except for all the others”.

    The other thing I would note is that arguing against a Republican “war on science” doesn’t square with the traditional Republican support of the space program, which is as about as in favor of hard science as you can get.

    Like

    • There’s a reason evolution is a theory and not a law and that’s because of the (current) inability to reproduce the process in a controlled environment.

      Not quite. Laws are generalized observations. Law of Gravity, Laws of Thermodynamics. Theories are the explanations of the mechanisms underneath the facts of a law. The differentiation of species is a fact. Nobody disputes there is more than one species. Darwinian evolution (as opposed to Lamarkian evolution or Intelligent Design) is the theory that explains the observed phenomenon.

      The other thing I would note is that arguing against a Republican “war on science” doesn’t square with the traditional Republican support of the space program, which is as about as in favor of hard science as you can get.

      That distinction is more between technology and science. And since the Space Race was a thinly veiled battle in the Cold War, the military applications were also not inconsiderable, a historically Republican stronghold. Where the ‘war’ is being fought is in the biological sciences or other places that contradict the literal Word Of God. A prominent Penn State engineering professor was also a rather outspoken Young Earther. A fair amount of cognitive dissonance is required to be both.

      Let’s not forget that Ken Cuccinelli spent a great deal of the taxpayers’ money harassing a scientist he had a disagreement with.

      Like

  128. jnc: yes, you’re absolutely right about scientific law and theory. The problem is that those terms aren’t understood correctly by the public at large, and “theory” is used by Republican politicians to imply that there is room for crackpot ideas about the co-existence of humans and dinosaurs. . . because, after all, that’s a theory, too!

    If Republicans nowadays were behaving like traditional Republicans a lot of this discussion would be moot.

    Like

  129. “You need to take this up with Dr. Collins.”

    I’m asking you.

    Mark,

    If a belief in a Supreme Being does not negate a belief in natural evolution, one has to believe that the Supreme Being created the universe for the purpose of random chemical reactions, no? If it is created for the purpose of life, then it is guided, yes?

    Like

  130. “If Republicans nowadays were behaving like traditional Republicans a lot of this discussion would be moot.”

    And now to the evergreen “Republicans with no chance of having power anymore because they’re dead” are the best Repbulicans, even though they were utterly reviled whilst they were in power or could be eligible for power.

    Well played, Michi, well played.

    I too yearn for the Tax cutting days of JFK and the War Mongering days of Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman and LBJ.

    Like

  131. actually, they were worried about this:

    “It is vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm”

    Like

  132. A suggestion, can we move this to the current “I have a song stuck in my head and want to transport it to you (and it’s, gag, a Bon Jovi song)” thread?

    This one’s a bit long to navigate with a smartphone.

    Like

  133. “Michigoose, on February 22, 2013 at 9:44 am said:

    If Republicans nowadays were behaving like traditional Republicans a lot of this discussion would be moot.”

    Perhaps, but I believe that they are representing the people who voted for them reasonably well, in that I believe that the electorate has become as polarized as the politicians.

    See for example McCain’s recent meeting with his constituents in Arizona where they all blasted him for being too soft on immigration.

    Americans get the government they deserve.

    Like

  134. McWing:

    You’re just baiting.

    And the second sentence of mine you cited was in response to jnc’s comment about traditional Republican support of the space program demonstrating that Republicans aren’t anti-science. Yeah, that’s changed.

    Like

  135. Yeah, that’s changed.

    It’s notable that since the military implications of a strong space program are no longer as pressing that NASA is now seen as a budget-busting frivolousness. And planetary research has always been a step-child to the manned flight program.

    Like

  136. “Where the ‘war’ is being fought is in the biological sciences or other places that contradict the literal Word Of God. “

    And if a majority of the electorate actually believes in God, this is an inevitable result of the democratic process and entirely legitimate. If it’s an extreme fringe position, it should be relatively easy to vote out the politicians who are waging the “war on science”. If it’s not so easy, then unfortunately a not insignificant chunk of the electorate may actually agree with them.

    “A fair amount of cognitive dissonance is required to be both.”

    Yep, which is why I’m an atheist, but I also recognize that I’m in the minority and that in a democratic system that has legislative and policy consequences. Just because I don’t get my way doesn’t make the system illegitimate.

    Like

  137. Rogue asteroids will save NASA, though,

    Paging Mr Willis!

    Like

  138. let’s bump this for troll.

    Like

  139. Just because I don’t get my way doesn’t make the system illegitimate.

    No, but there are illegitimate uses of the system. And, specifically according to our Constitution, using it to further one’s religious beliefs is an illegitimate use.

    Like

  140. “yellojkt, on February 22, 2013 at 10:05 am said:

    Yeah, that’s changed.

    It’s notable that since the military implications of a strong space program are no longer as pressing that NASA is now seen as a budget-busting frivolousness. And planetary research has always been a step-child to the manned flight program.”

    Republicans were the ones who led the fight against shutting down the U.S. manned space program without having an alternative to the Space Shuttle. You can argue that contradicts their focus on deficit reduction, but that’s how the fight played out.

    It also puts them in the odd position of opposing privatizing a government program, namely space flight as the administration has proposed to do.

    If you wish to take the position that this is knee jerk reaction to President Obama’s initiation of the privatization proposal, then the obvious conclusion is that Obama should strongly denounce evolution and science in general to generate Republican support for it.

    Moving to the other thread

    Like

  141. I must comment as the notions expressed in this thread wouldn’t have survived my sophomore year of physics. There is no “law” of gravity and there never was. The original Newtonian theory of gravity was disproven more than a century ago. It relies on absolute time.

    E = mc^2 is not a law and is a misunderstanding of the meaning of the mathematical equations. m stands for mass in this equation, but is not a constant.
    m = m0/sqrt(1+v^2/c^2), where m0 is the mass of an object at rest, v is its velocity and c is the speed of light in vacuum. In the limit of v/c <<1, a Taylor's series expansion of this equation yields E = (1/2)mv^2 + m0*c^2, where mv^2/2 is the conventional expression for kinetic energy and the latter term is what we think of as emm cee squared.

    Under conditions that were observable at the time of Newton, his theories matched experimental conditions. They are, in fact, indistinguishable from actual results in the limit v/c << 1. [v = velocity; c = speed of light in vacuum]. Newton was right (and brilliant beyond any measure a lesser scientist such as myself could applly).

    jnc – What you seem to think is a law is, in fact, the special theory of relativity. It's called special relativity as it does not cover acceleration (or gravity). For that, you need the general theory of relativity. Note, in both cases it is a theory.

    Laws are human constructs. Competent scientists do not have the hubris to presume they can write laws. What you think of as a scientific law is simply a theory that has been tested many times. Scientists love to do that. Sometimes we find that so-called laws can be bent. Even broken.

    ∂ß

    Like

  142. Paul: If I had more than two opposable thumbs, they’d all be up.

    Like

  143. Thanks, Goose. The law of gravity was immutable until the brilliant scientists of the early 20th century showed that it wasn’t. I wonder what it would have been like to be a “plugger” back then. I would have loved to be in on the original discoveries of magnetic resonance.

    jnc- My apologies if I came down too hard. You are wrong to distinguish between scientific theories and laws as there is no such thing as the latter. That is a flaw of popular discussion of science. The unfortunate byproduct is to treat a theory as a speculation.

    Theories are as good as we scientists have for explaining our universe. I am afraid that you only have belief beyond that.

    ∂ß

    Like

  144. Naturally, I wake up at 5 a.m. and think about the laws of thermodynamics. Nuts. Those are rather interesting in that they arise from statistics (hence the term statistical mechanics). That entropy increases in a closed system is simply a restatement of probability. Kind of like saying that if you flip a coin one million times, you’ll get pretty close to half a million heads.

    Naturally, I learned Newton’s Laws in freshman physics. They’ve been superseded by the Theories of Special and General Relativity, though that only matters if you are traveling near the speed of light or in a significant gravitational field.

    So, what is the difference between a theory and a law? I went to Google and found an interesting article at Chemistry.about.com. Here’s what the author wrote:

    A law generalizes a body of observations. At the time it is made, no exceptions have been found to a law. Scientific laws explain things, but they do not describe them. One way to tell a law and a theory apart is to ask if the description gives you a means to explain ‘why’.

    Example: Consider Newton’s Law of Gravity. Newton could use this law to predict the behavior of a dropped object, but he couldn’t explain why it happened.

    It seems a little squishy, but there’s an interesting take-away. A law is empirical. A theory can be even stronger. As an example, string theory explains why there is mass, which is a far stronger statement than observing that an apple dropped from a tree accelerates at a rate of 9.8 meters squared per second, not accounting for wind resistance or variations in the gravitational field of the Earth.

    ∂ß

    Like

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