The Ticker Quick Views on Politics, Economics and Finance
It's all over, as they say, but the shouting. President Barack Obama's jocular mood gave it away. In New Year's Eve remarks to the nation about the state of negotiations over a deficit-reduction deal, the president said an agreement was in sight, "but it's not done."
Behind the scenes, though, aides circulated the key points of a pending deal that Senate Republican leaders had tentatively agreed to, having brought Vice President Joe Biden into rescue the talks on Sunday evening.READ MORE
Albert R. Hunt
Not too long ago, political analysts assumed the Republicans had a clear advantage in the Electoral College, the system according to which each state, based on population, is given electors that in almost all cases are awarded on a winner-take-all basis. Today, it's the Democrats who have the edge.
Start by looking at the past seven presidential elections, three won by Republicans, four by Democrats. Then put most states that went for one party in five of these seven elections into the red column for Republican, blue for Democrat and purple or toss-up for the others.READ MORE
After weeks of on-again, off-again talks and a lot of political posturing, the fiscal-cliff negotiations are coming to an anticlimactic finish. It would have been a lot easier, and certainly faster, had President Barack Obama and Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, played a round of "rock, scissors, paper" in the Oval Office.
When the Senate votes, supposedly within the next 24 hours, it will likely be on a tiny remnant of what both parties had agreed was their original goal: a $4 trillion grand bargain to reduce the national debt by overhauling entitlements and the tax code.READ MORE
Before the 23-year-old student gang-raped and bludgeoned on a New Delhi bus died in a Singapore hospital, her brain and lungs bashed, her intestines ripped out of her body, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh swore the country would bring her attackers to justice.
Six men are in custody. But it will be a shame if that's all that comes of the atrocity. Seeking to calm violent demonstrations in the Indian capital, Singh said his government would review punishments for rape and related crimes against women. Yet it hardly matters what laws are on the books if rapists have little reason to fear prosecution.READ MORE
You think going over the fiscal cliff might be a big deal? Wait until you get a dose of the dairy cliff.
Sad to say it but the arrival of 2013 may bring a doubling in the price of milk to as much as $6 to $8 a gallon, up from about $3.75. For this, you can thank Congress, which seems to have lost the ability to carry out its most basic functions, starting with passing legislation.READ MORE
Buzzfeed has one of many pieces about anonymous Republicans bemoaning their party's strategic incompetence, this time about the debt ceiling deal. They report:
It’s difficult to find a Republican operative who is willing to say on the record that going over the fiscal cliff next Tuesday is a good idea. Provoking a crisis is bad politics: Republicans are resigned to taking the blame. And it’s bad for their policy agenda: They will likely be cornered into a broader tax hike than the best deal they could get from President Barack Obama today, and with none of the spending cuts that might now be on the table.READ MORE
Republican Senator Chuck Hagel may not be the best candidate to lead the Pentagon. He's an idiosyncratic figure, which is the source of both his appeal and various concerns about him. Here is National Review editor Rich Lowry, writing in Politico, trying to understand Obama's motive in floating Hagel's name for secretary of defense:
It’s not clear what draws Obama to Hagel. Maybe it’s the superciliousness. Or maybe the gesture toward bipartisanship his nomination would supposedly represent. Or maybe he’s just too easily impressed.READ MORE
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and the incoming chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, is starting off his tenure with a deeply misguided opinion on energy policy: He believes the federal government should direct trade in energy according to its determination of the national interest.
More specifically, Wyden has become the public face of protectionism on exports of liquefied natural gas.READ MORE
Byron York has a column today about gun owners' reaction to gun-control proposals. His takeaway: Certain restrictions on so-called assault weapons are politically viable but won't have much impact on violent crime. He closes with this thought:
In the end, fixing the problem will have to involve dealing more decisively with crazy people like the Newtown shooter, as well as other mass killers. And that will require entirely different measures than regulating guns.READ MORE
When you talk with conservatives about why they resist deficit-cutting deals, a response you often hear is that these deals produce real tax increases and illusory spending cuts. As my Bloomberg View colleague Ezra Klein discussed earlier this week, conservatives who won't cut a deal say they simply won't be fooled again.
But the deal conservatives hate most, the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990 (the one where President George H.W. Bush broke his "no new taxes" pledge) really did cut spending as promised. The claims that it didn't are based on bad math.READ MORE
On Christmas, Ruth Marcus wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post saying we should link Social Security benefits to the chained consumer price index. The piece's headline says this move, which would cause benefits to grow more slowly, is "a cost savings everyone should endorse."
Marcus explains, convincingly, why regular CPI overstates inflation and chained CPI is a more accurate measure. Then she offers this head-scratcher:READ MORE
If those so-called deficit hawks would stop moralizing long enough to look at the data, they might find something surprising: That data almost entirely undermine their argument.
Yes, the long-run path of spending on federal health programs remains a serious and legitimate source of concern. But the numbers show that our current fiscal deficit is well within control -- as have been the deficits of the last five years.READ MORE
A brief digression: I’ve become aware of a new effort by the G.O.P. to bully reporters into referring only to the "Bush-era" tax cuts, probably in the hope of dissociating those cuts, which they want to preserve, from a president voters now regard with disdain. But George W. Bush and his administration devised those cuts and rammed them through Congress, and it’s deceptive to suggest otherwise.READ MORE
Albert R. Hunt
It didn't used to be that way. In America's first 40 years, five future presidents held the post: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams and Martin Van Buren. From 1825 to 1850, three of the legendary members of the Senate, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun, all served a stint as top diplomat.READ MORE
This is part of a continuing dialogue between Ramesh Ponnuru and Margaret Carlson about Washington politics.
Ramesh, you make me feel like such a girl for still being mired in emotion rather than the cold hard facts of Newtown. Let me just pose one answer to your correct assessment that our gun-control efforts haven't worked.READ MORE
The political death of climate-change policy could have come in 2009, when the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade emissions bill failed in the U.S. Senate. But it didn't.
In fact, President Barack Obama's first term has brought substantial progress on climate change. Two of the biggest successes were fuel-economy standards and emissions limits on new power plants. For passenger cars and light trucks, corporate average fuel economy will rise from 29 miles per gallon in this year to 35.5 mpg in 2016 and 54.5 mpg in 2025. In 2014, fuel-economy standards will cover medium-duty and heavy trucks for the first time. For power plants, the Obama administration has established limits on emissions of mercury and particulate matter and is working on new caps for carbon dioxide.READ MORE
Wayne LaPierre, chief executive officer of the National Rifle Association, must think that most Americans are as monomaniacal as he is. At his much-awaited press conference today, he cited every reason but guns for the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. His vision of America is a country awash in military-style assault weapons.
The thought of stationing armed guards at every school is repugnant. It's also impractical. The same goes for building a database of the violently mentally ill. Even if we spent the billions of dollars necessary to make these ideas reality, we wouldn't be any safer. To understand why, all we have to do is subject these ideas to the same test LaPierre uses when asked about stricter gun-control laws: Would they have stopped the massacre in Newtown?READ MORE
Today, former Senator Chuck Hagel, rumored to be a possible nominee for secretary of defense, apologized for comments he made in 1998 about James Hormel, then-President Bill Clinton's nominee for U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg.
Hagel had complained at the time that Hormel is "openly aggressively gay" and therefore did not represent "our lifestyle, our values, our standards." This statement -- and how bizarre it sounds just 14 years later -- reflects how much the political landscape around gay rights has changed.READ MORE
The unhingedness of this morning's National Rifle Association news conference, in which Chief Executive Officer Wayne LaPierre blamed the Sandy Hook massacre on essentially everything except guns, has been adequately covered all over the web. I don't need to rehash it. (Here's the transcript in all its glory.)
Instead, I want to focus on one bad idea from LaPierre's rambling speech, because it's a fairly popular one: more police in schools.READ MORE