Faster history, faster democracy?

A mostly political Weblog.
March 15 2005 6:16 AM

Faster History, Faster Democracy?

Plus--Who cares who runs Disney?

No Pulitzer today: Both the LAT and the NYT cover the arrest of more than 100 Central American gang members, but Brady Westwater notes that the LAT, despite 4 bylines, misses the important understory--which is that the sweep appears to represent a breach in the idiotic local policy of offering sanctuary to known gang members who are known to be in this county illegally. (The NYT's Charlie LeDuff doesn't miss the story.) ... Westwater adds, in an email: "Makes you wonder what else does not get reported in a one newspaper town." ... 2:54 P.M.

How the Dems Can Play Against Type Cheap: The Center for American Progress' alternative tax reform plan would eliminate the employee's portion of the Social Security payroll tax, which is currently 6.2 percent of wages, according to John Podesta.  It would apparently keep the employer's portion, also 6.2 percent. But wouldn't it be much, much smarter for Democrats, if they're going to partially replace the payroll tax, to do the obverse--eliminate the employer's portion and keep the employee's half of the payroll tax? Why? 1) Most economists think the employee winds up paying both halves of the tax anyway, so the benefit to employees would be the same either way. 2) But if employees kept paying their part of the tax they would be more likely to continue to believe, correctly, that they'd earned Social Security benefits with their contributions. Democrats should want workers to feel entitled to at least some traditional Social Security benefits. If you eliminate the employee share of the tax you eliminate that easy psychic buy-in. That's why the payroll tax is there, according to a famous too-good-to-check FDR quote. (Few workers read economic literature on tax incidence and it would be hard to convince them, once the employee's half was gone, that they were still effectively paying the employer's half.) 3) Cutting the employee's but not the employer's portion creates an appearance that the Democrats are following their old, hack instinct to go for anything that seems to screw employers and help workers. That's because Democrats would be following their old hack instinct to go for anything that seems to screw employers and help workers. Eliminating the employer half would let the Dems play against type by seeming to be willing to do something to help the businesses that create jobs. ... Again, the actual economic effect would be the same either way. We're talking rhetoric and symbolism here. But it's decidedly non-trivial symbolism. ... 11:39 P.M.

They say it like that's a bad thing, II: "Unverified drivel." Today's defensive anti-blog epithet. ... 10:23 A.M.

It's Not Nice to Scam Tim Russert! John Kerry promised to sign his Form 180 43 days ago. ... Not that anyone's counting. ... Oh wait. 2:21 A.M.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Do you care if Robert Iger takes over Disney? I don't! We shouldn't have to pretend this is a world-historic event just so we have an excuse to get the juicy gossip! There are plenty of more important, barely-covered stories-- here's one. It would make a better movie too. ... 11:35 P.M.

Feiler in the Land of Abraham: Here's an idea I'm reluctant to put forward because it's either wrong and oversimplified or else it's so obviously right it's not worth mentioning. But could the democratic momentum in the Middle East--if it persists--represent another outcropping of, yes, the Feiler Faster Thesis? The FFT, remember, doesn't say that information moves with breathtaking speed these days.  (Everyone knows that!) The FFT says that people are comfortable processing that information with what seems like breathtaking speed . It's not a demonstration of the FFT, in other words, if millions of people in Lebanon learn about the Ukrainian revolution and the Iraq vote within hours of those events. It is an example of the FFT if they then  suddenly realize that their existing government and social structures are fragile and obsolete and expeditiously act on that belief. ... To Be Sure #1: I'm not saying that that's what is happening. I'm just suggesting it as a possibility. ... But it certainly does seem like the Arab world is blowing through the dialectic of history with impressive speed. The shift from feudalism to capitalism used to take three centuries; now it takes a week and a half! ... OK, that's a wild exaggeration, but you get the point. ... To be sure #2: It's also possible that the shift won't happen, or that it's only happening because of the patient work of decades, etc.. ...The oversimplified, possible implication: The War in Iraq set two trains running. One was the increasing-anger-against-us and more-people-who-will-try-to-kill-us Terrorist Blowback train. The second was the bellicose idealists' Democracy Domino Effect train. It seemed last year as if the first train would pose a threat to the U.S. for decades before the second, rescuing train could catch up with it. Now it looks as if there's at least a chance the second train will catch up sooner than could have been reasonably hoped.  ... [Could you be more tentative and a__-covering?--ed I don't think so. But consider it done.] Obvious counterexamples: 1848, 1968, 1989--all years of rapid, pre-Internet, multi-nation change. ... 11:17 P.M.

The Washington Canard thinks he's spotted a trend at the WSJ--the end of "news analysis." He acts as if that's a bad thing. ... 6:19 P.M. 

Postrel's Estrich/Kinsley post has this reminder of how awful the pre-Trib-ownership LAT was:

I remember visiting Bob Berger, the op-ed editor, back in the early '90s. An old-style newspaperman, Bob didn't like the paper's demands that he demonstrate "diversity" on the op-ed pages. I especially remember his complaint that he not only had to find gay writers but gay writers who would mention that they were gay. No gay foreign policy experts need apply. [Emph. added]

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