What Fresh Hell Is This?

November 12, 2006

What Now?

David Shribman, in a mildly patronizing (and answer honestly, does he write any other kind?) opinion piece in today's P-G:
That was the easy part. Taking over the Congress, that is. Let's face the truth here: Scoring a triumph over Republicans who themselves were impatient with the Republican record during an unpopular war was no great achievement, despite the great deal of celebrating that it prompted among Democratic partisans. Indeed, the startling thing would have been if, under these circumstances, the Democrats hadn't prevailed.
See what I mean? It's like your dad saying, "Good job! You didn't screw up as badly as you could have. Congratulations!"
But they did, and though only a few days have passed since the big moment, a sobering wave should be passing through Democratic ranks right about now. They have Capitol Hill, the great prize. But power brings responsibility and, even in a system that permits and perhaps even encourages divided government, the burden now passes to the Democrats. They have to do something with that power besides reward themselves with chairmanships and patronage and the psychic rewards of office.
He then tut-tuts the first few days:
The Democrats have a plan for the first few days, and much of it involves getting sworn in and swearing not to do as the Republicans have done. That is not good enough. If they are looking at their 2006 victory as a staging ground for 2008, which is the political way of doing things, they are going to maneuver the president into one uncomfortable corner after another for the pure recreational value of it all. If, on the other hand, they look at last week's victory as a chance to change the country, there's going to be a lot less recreation but perhaps some value.
Good thing there's The New York Times has an article that answers all of Shribman's concerns. The Democrats plans can be summed up in a nearly forgotten word in Dubya's DC: Oversight.

The opening:
Congressional Democrats say they will press new legislation next week to restore the power of a federal agency in charge of ferreting out waste and corruption in Iraq and greatly increase its investigative reach.

The bills, the first of what are likely to be dozens of Democratic efforts to resurrect investigations of war profiteering and financial fraud in government contracting, could be introduced as early as Monday morning.

The move would nullify a Republican-backed provision, slipped into a huge military authorization bill, that set a termination date for the agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. The agency’s findings have consistently undermined Bush administration claims of widespread success in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Oversight, the power wielded by Congressional committees to demand information and internal documents and to haul executive branch officials to hearings, by subpoena if necessary, is reverberating through Congress as a Democratic battle cry.
Ah oversight. It's a beautiful word, isn't it?

Conservatives had been screaming, Chicken Little-like, in the weeks before the election about the flurry of subpoenas they expected to see. But isn't that what's supposed to happen? Congressional Oversight?

Something that has been lacking entirely in Dubya's DC:
The current Congress has shown no inclination to investigate the Bush administration. Last year The Boston Globe offered an illuminating comparison: when Bill Clinton was president, the House took 140 hours of sworn testimony into whether Mr. Clinton had used the White House Christmas list to identify possible Democratic donors. But in 2004 and 2005, a House committee took only 12 hours of testimony on the abuses at Abu Ghraib.
But back to the Times. Other examples of oversight:
In the Senate, Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is in line to become chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that seeking a new strategy for Iraq would be his primary focus, but that he would also look carefully at military contracting.

“There have been serious allegations and evidence of misconduct among suppliers,” Mr. Levin said. “And the taxpayers, of course, get socked on that. And the troops are not properly taken care of when that happens.”
The imperative to investigate financial misdeeds extends beyond the military. Congressional aides said that the House government reform committee under Representative Henry A. Waxman of California might also investigate spending related to domestic security and the response to Hurricane Katrina.

The Appropriations Committee, which is likely to be led by Representative David R. Obey of Wisconsin, is likely to review more closely spending like large supplementary requests for Iraq and Afghanistan.

In addition, after the negative political fallout of corruption cases involving lawmakers, the Appropriations Committee is under pressure to curtail earmarks, which are spending measures for specific projects not sought by a federal agency but sponsored by a lawmaker — sometimes anonymously and often for a financial supporter.
Oversight. A lovely beautiful important word.


Democrats-Lie said...

Instead of pointing out "Dubya's" failings, how about everyone moving forward and asking the Democrats as to what their so called "new direction" means? I've been hearing about a "new direction" for how many weeks now and no one really outlines what it is.

All we've heard from Pelosi and company are what they do not plan to do (ex: impeachment proceedings, etc.).

Hey, you guys are in charge now. What's the big plan? What's the new direction you all have for America?

I'm waiting....patiently.

David, somehow I knew you wouldn't be able to stop bringing up the past....it's time to move forward, David. Mission accomplished. What's the next step? Really now, the gloating time is over.

Let's get to work.

Unless of course, you really don't know what the new direction is either...just a thought.

John Schutrick said...

Sorry, Master Lie, but you have failed to qualify once again. Please make room for the next fundamentalist contestant.

The Dems are NOT in charge. The President of the United States is still that guy who so resembles a monkey. He is still Commander in Chief of a nation that has repudiated his war.

Let's hear his plan for Iraq.

John Schutrick said...

...and I forgot to mention, Master Lie, that Madam Speaker has already outlined quite an agenda:
-- raise the minimum wage
-- enact the 9/11 Commission recommendations
-- promote stem-cell research
-- make tuition tax deductible
-- require negotiation with drug companies in that god-awful Medicare prescription drug plan, and most importantly
-- institute ethics reform.

I guess you didn't hear about the "First 100 Hours" plan. Rush probably didn't mention it.

EdHeath said...

Actually, tuition is tax deductible. I guess we could make it tax deductible again. Um, oh, and there are much more useful tax *credits* for tuition as well. Courtesy of the mix of Clinton and the republican congress.

On minimum wage, wouldn't a better idea be an increase in the EIC? Wouldn't that benefit more the people you say you are worried about, the people raising families on minimum wage jobs, without giving a raise to Buffy the Taco Bell girl who wants more iTunes? Plus Taco Bell wouldn't have to fire anyone because their workers suddenly cost more. Yes, a bump in the EIC would increase the tax burden, but nothing in life is free.

And ethics reform would be nothing but a political distraction, we should already have the ethics rules we need, they just need to be enforced. Now campaign finance reform, that's where the democrats could put their money where their mouths are. They would take the risk of losing in '08 by putting everybody on a more equal footing.

With one vote in the senate and only a few in the house, the dems will be lucky to get nine republicans to agree to bring anything to a vote (that 60 vote thing to end debate in the senate). I predict immigration (again) and ethics (sigh, again) and little else happening.

John Schutrick said...

Wouldn't that benefit more the people you say you are worried about, the people raising families on minimum wage jobs, without giving a raise to Buffy the Taco Bell girl who wants more iTunes? Plus Taco Bell wouldn't have to fire anyone because their workers suddenly cost more.

Ah, yes, the double-whammy Republican minimum wage myths.

First, the idea that most minimum-wage workers are teens: Actually, 80% are over 20, and about half are 25 to 40. I'd be happy to cite sources for you if I thought you would be impressed with facts.

Second, the lost-jobs argument: If Pepsico (the mammoth multi-national corporation which owns Taco Bell) thought they could run their stores with fewer employees, they would already have done it. The right-wingers trot out this argument every ten years or so when the Democrats decide to throw a bone to the working poor. Every time they say it, and every time it doesn't happen. You would think by now they would pop open a nice cold can of Shut the Hell Up, but it still works, so they still do it.

But don't get me wrong, we sure are pleased to have your support in raising the EIC as well. It's an excellent anti-poverty tool.

And by the way, what's wrong with buying more iTunes? Apple is part of the economy, too.

John Schutrick said...

With one vote in the senate and only a few in the house, the dems will be lucky to get nine republicans to agree to bring anything to a vote (that 60 vote thing to end debate in the senate).

Actually, the Dems majority in the House will be just about the same size as the GOP's current majority, and probably larger than the one they had 2002-2004.

EdHeath said...

Ah, yes, the double-whammy Republican minimum wage myths…First, the idea that most minimum-wage workers are teens: Actually, 80% are over 20, and about half are 25 to 40. I'd be happy to cite sources for you if I thought you would be impressed with facts.

Actually I’m quite gratified. The other contributor to this blog “Democrats-Lie” accused me of being a liberal; I must be doing something right. I would be happy to read your sources, particularly if they are primary sources and not reports. I surely haven’t researched this at all, yet I know like I know the sun will rise tomorrow that the other side (business, republicans) have their own numbers, some good. Oh, and besides being republican myths, I remember seeing them in econ 101 and econ 200 (micro).

So, 20% of the minimum wage would go to a population that didn't need it, and as a result, 20% of the resultant rise in prices or drop in stock dividends could have been avoided?

Look, Taco Bell was probably a poor example, although if the minimum wage goes up 25%, you can bet Pepsico will fire the fifth member of a 5 member team and tell the remaining four they have to work 25% harder for their new raise. But I really should have used Vera Cruz, the burrito place on Forbes in Oakland as my example. Sure, there’s Qodoba across the street, so I guess no one but me will miss it when it goes under. But it’s the small businesses that will suffer the most if the minimum wage goes up, the mom and pop shops. Of course, if you want to make Walmart’s life easier …

‘cause its not just republicans (or economists) who decry the economic effect of raising the minimum wage, its small (and large) business. We have enough outsourcing and downsizinzing without giving business more excuses.

So here’s the thing: the bump (and broadening to cover part of the middle class) in the EIC could be positioned as a compromise, along with a small bump in the minimum wage. The democrats could show themselves to be progressive, new democrats, who want to work with business to create good paying jobs, not undercut small business with new burdens. Remember, it’s been 10 years since welfare reform and the republican congress did not tweak it to take the recession into account. People still struggling to get into the workforce do not need more obstacles, like being told they are not worth the new minimum. The increased EIC could even have tough new eligibility rules and new scrutiny, which frankly it could use because the Bush administration illegally denied tens of thousands of EIC claims last year, something that might not happen if there was a spotlight on the EIC …

John Schutrick said...

To Master Lie, Goebbels was a liberal. Look at the millions of homosexuals that he didn't execute. And to his friends at the blog that is proud to call itself Right-Wing Nut House George W. Bush is now just another liberal. Rush Limbaugh, font of all right-wing knowledge and exaulted hillbilly heroin junkie, implied the same thing on 9-Nov.

As for the rest of your post, you keep answering my facts ("80% are over 20, and about half are 25 to 40", "Every time they say it, and every time it doesn't happen") with surmises("Pepsico will fire the fifth member of a 5 member team", "it’s the small businesses that will suffer"). That's faith-based politics, my friend; and people who practice it have demonstrated their total immunity to facts.

It would be ridiculously easy for you to verify my assertions. I challenge you to do so and report back here on your findings. If you have a problem doing this, let me know and I will teach you how to enlighten yourself. Hint: www.google.com. Hint: reputable academic institutions. Hint: statistical studies rather than anecdotal examples.

If the conservatives have good numbers, let's seem 'em. I'm willing to learn as well. But unlike the you ("I surely haven’t researched this at all"), I have done my research.

And if you want to do bald assertions, here's one for you: The 20% of minimum- wage-earners who are teenagers are not just buying iTunes and tattoos. They are also buying college textbooks with those Taco Bell earnings, and somethimes clothing and groceries for their kids. So it is very condescending to say that 20% of the population doesn't need it.

The blogosphere is loaded with willfully uninformed, wild-eyed posts predicting the end of the world if we do things like give the working poor their first raise since 1997. I'm disappointed that a person such as you -- one who has the ability to make a cogent argument, one who seems to actually have two neurons to rub together -- have chosen to deepen the excreta without doing a lick of homework first.

Maria said...

Just imagine how many jobs we'd create if we cut the minumum wage in half! Hell, let's just really go for for it and win the race to the bottom and pay them 10 cents an hour -- that will scare the Chinese.

Look, the minimum wage in the 1960's was over $9.00 an hour in terms of today's dollars and business did just fine -- even small businesses.

There's just no excuse for such a low minimum wage.

John Schutrick said...

Even better, we could go back to the piecework, Grapes of Wrath days when we had folks bidding down their labor rates vainly attempting to feed their starving families.

To add another data point (Fundies just hate data points): When we raised the minimum wage more than 9 years ago, did the economy collapse? I seem to recall that 1997 was a fair-to-good year.

EdHeath said...

Even better, we could go back to the piecework, Grapes of Wrath days when we had folks bidding down their labor rates vainly attempting to feed their starving families.
Ah, the good old days.

Lighten up, Francis.

Look, all right, this is what I do for relaxation (I'm doing the two jobs for the usual complicated reasons, a mix of my own foolishness and others foolishness). So yeah, I post first and maybe research later. But we both know that PhD's who do this stuff for a living often can't agree on what the data means, for a variety of reasons (Well, I know it, anyway). So, yes, I should make the effort, but at the same time I know that my best efforts at research will only bring more questions, if I do the research right.

Yes, I am letting myself off the hook by citing a complicated world. Poor me.

And, actually, I thought you were going to provide a URL to, like, some census data or
something. I mean, at least I made up some hypothetical’s (as opposed to anecdotes: my hypothetical’s have nothing behind them). I used Google to make sure I got the Stripes reference right.

And yes, I am flip about the 20%. I mean, this is kind of a discussion at the back end of an obscure alley of the web. And yet even here the polarization of politics plays out. The fine points of who deserves what standard of living and who should provide it are literally endless and also a minefield of competing moral arguments and standards. I mean, from an economic viewpoint, wage floors are either a bad idea or neutral. But the economic viewpoint is largely from the ivory tower, and probably doesn’t mean much in the real world.

But in the real world, what are the chances for a minimum wage? I know there is moderate public support, so some moderate republicans may jump on. Moderate public support is just what it sounds like; a good set of Reaganesque anecdotes could dissolve public support over night. And saying that small business is lying about how they will be hurt will just make lots of enemies, regardless of research or truth or whatever. Anyway, God help a minimum wage bill if it has to go to conference, and there is a good chance that if democrats try to raise it too high, the president will use the opportunity to remind Corporate America whose campaigns they should contribute to.

I just think the EIC goes to all working adult heads of household, even those making a few pennies more than the minimum. No 80%, no room for making bad jokes. Like I said, it could be an opportunity for the democrats to raise the specter of the Clintonian “New Democrat”, finding solutions that help the poor while not punishing business. The democrats need to wise up, they need to start playing smarter than the republicans, because the country is still basically evenly split, and clearly still persuadable in one direction or the other. We don’t want to push so hard a little more than half the country goes to Jeb in ‘08

EdHeath said...

Oh and thanks, for calling me "My friend".

Well, I probably mangled the quote, but ten points if you guess the Bill Murray film referenced.

John Schutrick said...

Your quote was precise, and the movie would be Stripes. Where do I go to redeem my points?

The great thing about this wonderful country of ours (:^)} is that you have the right to spew spurious speculations all over the blogosphere -- and sometimes you do.

But as George Will recently said, "You have the right to your own opinion; you do NOT have the right to your own facts." I would request that you please contribute to the elevation of political discourse by stating facts as facts. Opine wildly all you want (not that I consider you by any means to be a wild opiner), but when you say something is true or is going to be true, please be prepared to back it up with some kind of substantiation.

Oh, and puhleeeeese for the sake of the great Bwahawahu, do not take the stance that facts don't matter, that statistics are meaningless, or that the green apple over there is purple. Doing that kinda stuff just makes you look stupid or even worse, Neocon.

I would also plead with an intelligent, rational person such as yourself to consider this: it is even more relaxing to post from a position of "knowing what is" than it is to do so from a position of ignorance or "wishing it could be."

Alright, I'm lecturing here. Sorry. It's what I do to relax. (See smiley, above.)

EdHeath said...

Well, as far as the quote goes, I really meant "Oh, and thanks for calling me "My Friend"". That was the quote I was afraid I mangled, from "Quick Change". It seemed appropriate in context.

Check out the Wikipedia page on Minimum Wage, and read the whole thing. There is a lot of information, including a fairly clear statement that a majority of economists think the minimum wage has the potential to have a negative effect on low wage employment, in the abstract. The real world information is much more mixed and sketchy. The links provided on Wiki appear to be either not very helpful stats or partisan web sites, in both directions. I would subscribe to what the Wiki expresses, oin total, including the European experience that the MW is fairly employment neutral. My objection to a MW hike now is that there is not enough economic evidence to over come the political objections that will be raised, and to the damage that will do to the democratic party. Realizing that our mileage may vary.

Most issues are more complex than the talking points of either party. Those are the statistics I tend to disdain. You mentioned the 80% percent figure. Without me questioning it per se, can I ask where you got it from? Specifically, as I would like to check it out.

And I don’t think the Neocon’s would have me, I expect they are no fans of my pet cause, the EIC. (Of course, Neocon is usually a term connected to foreign policy, your usage of it surprises me a bit) Maybe try Neo Classical, though I think I have no right to that either.

I'll have to credit the ten points to your tab.

John Schutrick said...

OK, you busted me. The Neocon thing was not really germane to the economic debate, it was just a generic wise-ass remark.

Here are a couple of sites I found that you, as an economist, will probably appreciate more than I did:

-- The Economic Policy Institute has enough charts, graphs, and the like to make even a marketing major happy; and

-- this one, a statistical analysis from the Center for Economic and Policy Research pretty much nails down the 20% figure.

I'm interested in reading your reactions. I'm a computer/techie type, so naturally I spend more time talking to biologists than economists.

John Schutrick said...

It looks like we somehow lost those links. Nakedly, they are: