The Landslide Faction
This year, it's rational to go with the winner.
Is the news from Iraq better or worse than you anticipated a few months ago? I expected more explosions, and bigger explosions, from the anti-coalition terrorists in Iraq this close to the American election. That does not seem to be the CW, however. Howard Fineman's latest, slightly overexcited dispatch makes clear how much Kerry's currently-effective strategy depends on a) Zarqawi & Co. supplying a steady stream of attacks, etc. and b) the press reporting little but a crescendo of bombings, beheadings and other and bad news from Iraq for the next three and a half weeks. In short, Spain II. I want Kerry to win but not because we are that easily spooked. ... P.S.: War critic Gen. Zinni seems to have a level-headed picture of the situation. [Link via Lucianne] ... Update: More Zinni here. The administration seems to be taking his advice to move on insurgent-controlled towns quickly, before the U.S. election. ... 12:28 A.M.
Late-breaking news on the meaning of life. ... 12.11 A.M.
Thursday, October 7, 2004
Gerrymandering--drawing district lines to prevent competitive elections--is at least as serious a problem in our political system as campaign financing. Yet it's only the attempts to get the money out of politics that get the big media push. Worse, those attempts sometimes make the gerrymandering problem worse (as you might expect, given that campaign finance laws are by definition passed by incumbent legislators who have a bipartisan interest in stifling competition for their seats). Charlie Cook, in his "Off to the Races" e-mail of last week, reports something I haven't seen elsewhere:
Incumbents have become even more sheltered from defeat in recent years. In fact, since 1998 only 16 incumbents have lost.
Ironically, the new campaign finance law, which prevents parties from pouring soft money into campaigns, has served to help incumbents even more. Neither party was able to go up with ads this summer to "soften" some of these marginal incumbents, leaving challengers, who always are outspent, to do it themselves.
Maybe the press will pick up on the gerrymandering/noncompetition issue when the incumbents' advantage prevents Democrats from making more than tiny inroads into the Republican majority in the House this year. ... 11:43 A.M.
Someone tell Andrew Sullivan:
"The president and I have the same position, fundamentally, on gay marriage. We do. Same position."--John Kerry, in today's NYT
Actually, of course, Kerry is trying to pull off a straddle here-- he hints to gay rights audiences that he'll support gay marriage down the road. The problem, as with most of Kerry's straddles, is that he doesn't let both sides know both faces of his position. In the above quote, he's trying to con conservatives into thinking--well, that he has the same position as the president. [Isn't it a little late for these petty anti-Kerry snipes? We're in home stretch. Get with program and put these in the 'Nov. 3 file'--Moscow. Sorry! It won't happen again.] ... Via Insta and Althouse 11:24 A.M.
Hooray for the AMT? Taxpayers have to either pay their regular income tax or the "Alternative Minimum Tax" (AMT)--whichever is higher. The AMT was designed to catch rich people who use loopholes and deductions to escape taxation. But because the AMT isn't indexed for inflation, more and more middle class taxpayers will have to pay it. Conventional wisdom holds that Congress will have to step in and correct this situation before middle class taxpayers revolt. Indeed, the need to do something about the horrible AMT is considered the driving political engine behind proposals for overhauling the regular tax code, according to the NYT's Edmund Andrews. ... But why isn't the unindexed AMT a feature rather than a bug? That is, why isn't it a good vehicle for gradually introducing tax reform and simplification? How? Keep all the deductions and credits in the tax code, but simplify the AMT so it's the tax code reformers really want. And keep it unindexed. Then, as the AMT hits further and further down the income scale, more and more taxpayers will have to shift to the reformed AMT system--until most Americans don't even bother with their old regular tax calculations. They just pay the simplified tax, which is maybe a little bit higher than the old complicated tax. (You want simplicity, you pay a bit more!) Presto--the old tax code has been gradually put out of its misery like the proverbial frog in slowly heated water. ...Don't fight the AMT--surrender to it! ... What am I missing here? 1:17 A.M.
Photograph of Howard Dean on the Slate home page by Jim Bourg/Reuters.