Patterico's Pontifications


Championship Game Open Thread

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:00 pm

Kentucky’s doing what they do best: getting themselves well behind in the first half.

Ezra Klein: Global Warming Must Be Handled RIGHT AWAY!!!! But the National Debt Crisis? Not So Much

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:52 am

With a new bonus email to me from Klein!

Ezra Klein has a giant, long post about how politics makes people less logical. I guess this is the Vox way: it pretends to be even-handed, but of course it’s the usual lefty Klein claptrap. If you make it all the way through to the end, you’ll see countless arguments about ways that Republicans are supposedly unreasonable about political issues, and precious few (none?) making the same criticisms of Democrats.

But never mind Ezra and his boring overall point. I want to focus on this passage at the very end:

A political movement that fools itself into crafting national policy based on bad evidence is a political movement that will, sooner or later, face a reckoning at the polls.

At least, that’s the hope. But that’s not true on issues, like climate change, where action is needed quickly to prevent a disaster that will happen slowly. There, the reckoning will be for future generations to face.

This, coming from the organization that just told us in a simplistic video that the national debt is not a problem “right now.”

There is, of course, one difference between the problem caused by global warming and the problems caused by the national debt — even if you do accept all the arguments of the global warming crowd (I don’t). That is this: when the fiscal crash happens, it will happen quickly. Probably in a day or two. It may seem slow now, but when the rollercoaster reaches the top of the hill, hang on.

So how does Klein deal with the evident contradiction between his treatment of two issues he supposedly considers pressing in the long run? The answer may very well amuse you.

You see, I recently criticized Klein, Matt Yglesias, and the Vox people for putting out a video that argued that the national debt simply isn’t a problem — at least “right now.” When Ezra Klein and I were exchanging emails about my criticism, I published them — but I never did get around to publishing his last email to me. I am pleased to do so now, because the contrast between the way he treats the issue of the national debt and the way he treats global warming is so amusing.

For context, let me provide what I sent to him first. (Note that my email follows on the heels of him haughtily claiming: “I don’t think you actually understand” the issues in a 2011 post of his that I cited as an example of his contradictory views on whether to include intragovernmental debt in the national debt.) I said:

Thanks for that CBO link. If CBO is an authority, why not listen to them regarding the effect of debt? Do you “understand” what you linked? Here is a quote: “CBO estimates that federal debt held by the public will equal 74 percent of GDP at the end of this year and 79 percent in 2024 (the end of the current 10-year projection period). Such large and growing federal debt could have serious negative consequences, including restraining economic growth in the long term, giving policymakers less flexibility to respond to unexpected challenges, and eventually increasing the risk of a fiscal crisis (in which investors would demand high interest rates to buy the government’s debt).”

Serious negative consequences?? Only looking at debt held by the public? But Matt and Ezra told us it was nothing to worry about!!!

Klein responded:

You really seem to me to be spoiling for a fight but I don’t want to fight with you. I’m not even sure we’re disagreeing now.

As CBO and Bernanke say, the debt is a real long-term problem. As Matt says, it is not a problem *right now*. As I have written many times, I’d like to see a package passed that increases support for the economy now through spending and tax cuts and includes much larger spending cuts and tax increases as the labor market recovers.

This is also, btw, Bernanke’s position.

All that said, you and I will disagree on policy recommendations. My point to you is 1) that public debt is the correct measure for the video and 2) that it’s clearly labeled. I really do think I’ve made those points to the best of my ability. Beyond that, I don’t think we’re going to resolve much. Have a good night!

So, in summary: on climate change, “action is needed quickly to prevent a disaster that will happen slowly.” But in dealing with the “real long-term problem” of our unsustainable debt, these Vox people put out a video that emphasizes it is not a problem “right now.”

As a friend of mine told me after I shared Klein’s email with him:

I anxiously await the Voxplainer: “Stop Freaking Out Over Global Warming.”


Interview with the Emanuel

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:18 am

No matter what you think of Rahm Emanuel, this interview of him by the New Republic is amusing. Because, although it is edited, the interview is transcribed, so you can see for yourself how Emanuel intimidates the interviewer. In short, Emanuel scares him. And it works.

IC: When the Obamacare website wasn’t working properly, did you want to be in Washington trying to fix it?

RE: You gotta be kidding. You get a freebie question for the ridiculousness of that question.

IC: I was asking about your competitive instinct. You say you like to fix things.

RE: [Gets up and starts walking around the office.] That goes down as one of the more intriguing questions I have ever had. Did I wish I was in Washington to fix a website? Let me answer that. I have a single-word answer. No. Please do not edit out the sarcasm of that answer.

IC: Don’t worry, it is staying.

If Emanuel wants to go off record, they go off record. If Emanuel mocks the way the interviewer transitions from one topic to another, the interviewer minces and cringes. It’s actually funny to read. It’s too bad they don’t put the audio online.

Emanuel is in the catbird seat: he is a forceful Democrat in a city that does not brook Republicanism. You get a sense of the Happy Dictator in this passage, which comes on the heels of Emanuel’s boasting about how he redid every playground in Chicago and beat the deadline by a year:

IC: You don’t have a Congress that prohibits you from passing the smallest thing.

RE: We have fifty aldermen but we do have a … hmmm.

IC: A working majority?

RE: [Bursts into laughter.] We have a can-do spirit. Washington doesn’t think they have a lot on the line. We have a lot on the line.

A “can-do spirit.” Very cute.

It’s actually something that the country as a whole could use, only in the other direction. A “can-cut” spirit. A “can-repeal” spirit. A “can-dismantle” spirit.

But it’s not enough for one politician to have the spirit. He has to have the country behind him. And that won’t happen until the fiscal crash — and probably not even then.

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