Kf plugs in.

A mostly political Weblog.
June 12 2003 4:52 AM

Kf Plugs In

Transitioning to a post-Raines blogenda!

Not one, not two, but three plugs in a NYT Arts-front-page "Critic's Notebook" for a semi-obscure band, Galactic, whose guitarist is Howell Raines' son!  What I wouldn't have given for this item two weeks ago! ... P.S.: Actually, veteran kf reader P.M., who alerted me to the connection, says "I've seen these guys; they're pretty good!" ... Update: Another alert reader, H, e-mails to say 

I work at a rather large record store ... in Austin, Texas and, though I know little about them, we sell large amounts of their cds to young college age kids and all their shows tend to sell out.  Though they seem obscure to you and me ... they seem to have caught on nation wide with college kids who also seem to be into Ben Harper 

So there. ... P.P.S.: Have I inadvertently complied with the ominously  ludicrous proposed EU blogger "reply" rules? ...10:06 P.M.

E.J. Dionne claims the administration's tax cuts are preventing desirable spending increases  on homeland security and military housing. Doesn't that mean the tax cuts really are holding down spending? I thought the big Democratic argument against the tax cuts was that they weren't holding down spending, and the result was deficits as far as they eye can see. ... It can be one, or it can be the other, but it can't be both at the same time, right? ... Articles like Dionne's are actually mildly heartening because they suggest that, by holding down expenditure creep, even the latest Bush tax cuts will give Democrats--when they get back into power--more room to add necessary health care spending without eating up too great a share of GDP.  ... Unfortunately, as Thomas Maguire argues, the rejected spending increase was probably just a stunt by Rep. David Obey to score "points" by suggesting a "no-tax-cut-for-even-more-spending" trade. At least one of the GOP bills in question actually does provide for substantial increases in security spending, although not in all areas. So even Dionne--and Paul Krugman, who also got a column out of Obey's stunt--don't convince me that the second round of Bush tax cuts was a good idea. ...  9:14 P.M.

Backfill: Give investment banker and Pinch-pal Steven Rattner points for admitting, in his otherwise disingenuous, party-line "fairness" attack  on the Republican tax cut, that

We shouldn't dismiss all tax cuts simply because they benefit the wealthy. Double taxation of dividends is a source of economic inefficiency, and eliminating it would be a laudable goal.

He buries this endorsement in the "armpit" of the piece, however. ... Why is Rattner's piece "otherwise disingenous?" He complains that "[I]ncome inequality in the United States is now .. at a record level." But he also admits that it's "natural economic forces" -- technology, greater demand for skilled workers--that are "driving us toward more inequality." So what is he going to do about it? What Rattner knows, but doesn't admit, is that no conceivable array of Democratic initiatives--not more progressive taxes, not a large training program--will negate the "natural economic forces" at work. The numbers don't add up (and the payoff for training programs is far in the future). But Rattner still pretends that "public investments" and whatever grabbag of "antipoverty programs" has been slighted by the Bush administration will cure the problem he identifies. ... P.S.: That understates Rattner's disingenuousness, because he actually abjures redistribution--"we should not legislate or redistribute our way to income equality." Huh? Iif income inequality is so bad that it should be the talismanic standard against which all tax bills are judged--if it's unfair, if it leads to "social tensions and economic inefficiences"--then why not legislate and redistribute against it? Maybe because the legislation and redistribution won't work. Last time I checked, it would take above-Sweden levels of taxation to come even close to countering the inequality boom of the last few decades. Without redistributive taxation, there's no hope at all. ... So Rattner is left with this platform: "We have a horrible inequality problem. We're very unhappy about it. There's nothing we can really do about it but we can pretend to try, and at least we shouldn't make it worse." ... And Democrats wonder why they don't have an appealing core ideological pitch. ... P.P.S.:  I'm probably overanalyzing here: The best interpretation of Rattner's piece is really "I want to be Treasury Secretary in the next Democratic administration." ... P.P.P.S: Give up, Steve! The Democrats are happy to take your money, but you won't get the job. You talk to the press too much! ... P.P.P.P.S.: What would I do about economic inequality? Learn to live with it by taking steps to insure that it doesn't translate into social inequality. My book tries to make sense of this strategy. [Good plug. Alterman would be proud--ed. He's 124,077 places ahead of me in the BN rankings. Still more vicious inequality.] ... 11:46 A.M.

Monday, June 16, 2003

In my experience, it's indeed the mouse that does the damage. I don't go near 'em. ...9:14 P.M.

How thin-skinned is Eric Alterman? Eric Alterman generously reprints an entire, tedious kf item before pompously demanding a "correction" because I said he was "hustling"--meaning promoting his book. I didn't mean he had especially used the Raines/Blair scandal to promote the book, although he was doing just that in the item to which I linked. I simply meant he was a hustler, motivated--on occasion, in part--by book-promotional concerns. He is!... Not that there's anything wrong with it! (That was the point.) ...True, Alterman plugs his book only five times on his current blog page, which shows admirable restraint.... He discusses the Raines resignation at some length twice (not once, as he now claims--correction please!) and promotes yet a third, longer--and very good-- Nation article he wrote on the subject. Yet he seems to feel he deserves a self-abnegation merit badge because he "refused to offer any soundbites to print reporters when requested to do so," and on a few days ignored the Raines/Blair story on his blog. Hey, I keep quiet too when my side is getting creamed as badly as Alterman's side was getting creamed in the Raines controversy! It's not a sign of humility. ... P.S.:  Can this be the same publicity-shy naif who somehow managed to get a little early attention for his book by graciously declaring, in Esquire, that he wished Rush Limbaugh "would have gone deaf"? ... Update: Alterman says (via e-mail) that he "aopologized [for the remark] on the day the story broke." ...  5:51 P.M.