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Bloggers disagree on Obama and Congress Republicans; agree that Congress Dems are not stellar:

This week's National Journal poll of leading political bloggers asked for grades for performance thus far of President Obama, House Republicans, and House Democrats. For Obama, the Left awarded a B, and the Right a D. I was one of the D voters, with this comment: "'Stimulus' was a bait-and-switch which broke Obama's promises of transparency. Moving the census to the White House from Commerce is Chicago-style sleaze. When I voted for Obama over Clinton in the Colorado caucus, I was mistaken to think the result would be cleaner government."

For the House Republicans, the grades were reversed, with the the Left giving a D and the Right giving a B. I gave them an A: "United against intergenerational theft and reckless deficit spending. Too bad they didn't do the same under Bush."

Grades were somewhat closer on Congressional Democrats. The Left said C+, while the Right said D. My comment: "Spending other people's money like sailors on shore leave. Waxing indignant about mortgage woes and greed while leaving Rangel, Frank and Dodd in chairmanships. At least they get an A+ for chutzpah."

roger d.:
Uh, thanks Dave, for proving you know how to recycle the RNC talking points?
2.20.2009 11:04am
Steve:
Seriously, if you believe the line about the Census you'll believe anything.
2.20.2009 11:06am
Adler Colleague:
"Grades were somewhat closer on Congressional Democrats. The Left said C+, while the Right said D. My comment: "Spending other people's money like sailors on shore leave. Waxing indignant about mortgage woes and greed while leaving Rangel, Frank and Dodd in chairmanships. At least they get an A+ for chutzpah."


That is an insult to sailors on shore leave.
2.20.2009 11:06am
Belk:
Wow. Most inane blog post on Volokh in a long while.
2.20.2009 11:09am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Interesting that the people complaining about Kopel's supposed "recycling of RNC talking points" don't appear able to actually refute any of the criticisms of the move of the Census to direct White House control or the substance of the pork-laden, money-wasting "stimulus" bill.
2.20.2009 11:12am
Bart (mail):
This is just cheerleading for your team and catcalling the other team.

Why not grade by the act?

Let's start with the economy...

Borrow and spend $1.2 Trillion dollars to expand government: F

Borrow and spend $250 Billion dollars to pay your neighbor's mortgage: F

Borrow and spend $20+ Billion to bail out the Big Three and the UAW: F

The markets have given their grades: A 7366 Dow and $1000+ gold.

Things are better on foreign relations...

Continue Predator strikes in Pakistan: A

Granting 2/3 of requested military reinforcement of Afghanistan: B

Partially continue intelligence gathering against the enemy: B-

Cave to Russia on ABM base in Poland in exchange for non-military supply routes into Afghanistan: D

Attempting to resurrect failed Clinton era appeasement of North Korea by offering to pay them to stop making nukes: F

Dropping sanctions against Iran and Syria: F
2.20.2009 11:21am
PhanTom:
PatHMV,

How about you point to a single earmark in the stimulus package? Because without that, you're going to have a hard time backing up the pork-laden characterization of the bill. Unless you think any spending package is pork, in which case, there's no point in arguing.

--PtM
2.20.2009 11:21am
PLR:
Who knew it was the right that is responsible for grade inflation?
2.20.2009 11:22am
1Ler:
For the first time in my young politically aware life, I've been proud of the GOP in Congress. Too bad they have years to go before they can overcome previous ineptness.

And wow, Obama might turn out to be the Republican savior like Bush was for the Democrats. Has he made a single politically savvy move since the election?
2.20.2009 11:34am
accountant ed (mail):
The "intergenerational theft" line is particularly rich given the Republican performance from 2001 - 2007. Remember, according to Cheney, Delay, et al. "Deficits don't matter".
2.20.2009 11:34am
courtwatcher:
"Chicago-style sleaze"? Very analytical and perceptive!
2.20.2009 11:36am
Tony Tutins (mail):

For the House Republicans, the grades were reversed, with the the Left giving a D and the Right giving a B. I gave them an A: "United against intergenerational theft and reckless deficit spending. Too bad they didn't do the same under Bush."


How about this bit of Congressional chutzpah?

Among the Republican Congressmen now requesting stimulus cash are abominable no-men* Adam Putnam, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Tom Rooney, Mario Diaz-Balart, Ginny Brown-Waite, Cliff Stearns, John Mica and Bill Posey.

*Immortal phrase of C. Northcote Parkinson.

Further, did Mr. Kopel slam the House Republicans when they facilitated record deficits? Or is what's sin for Democrats virtue for Republicans?
2.20.2009 11:38am
Snaphappy:
The term "leading" almost as questionable as the point of polling political bloggers in the first place.

Coming soon: Poll of leading political LOLcats' grade on the Stimulus. Right Leaning: D "I HAZ A SAD" Left-leaning" A "IN UR DEFICIT, SPENDING UR KIDZ @$$$$!"
2.20.2009 11:45am
Tony Tutins (mail):

Moving the census to the White House from Commerce is Chicago-style sleaze.

I wondered who conducted the Census before the Department of Commerce was founded. Originalists will appreciate that the first six censuses were tabulated by the White House -- "the aggregate amount of each description of persons" for every district be transmitted to the president.

So the Census is merely going home again.
2.20.2009 11:47am
Dave N (mail):
Tony Tutins,

You are usually much better than to spout DNC talking points. According to the Cenus Bureau's own website, it has been independent of White House since at least 1902. To suggest, as you do, that it is just "coming home" is more than disingenuous, it is dishonest.
2.20.2009 11:58am
Choey (mail):
Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution provides for an "actual enumeration" and a statute passed by Congress requires that this is to be done by the secretary of commerce. Moving the census to the white house is plain illegal.
2.20.2009 11:58am
hawkins:
Im glad to see that Democratic bloggers are able to acknowledge that the House Dems are obviously "not stellar."

I am disappointed, but not surprised, that Republican bloggers wont acknowledge the same for House Republicans.
2.20.2009 11:59am
Jim at FSU (mail):
I think it is very disingenuous to characterize an attempt to hijack the census as a return to originalism. It's a blatant power grab, nothing more.

Instead of actually counting people, they're going to "sample" the population and then use computer models to guess atdetermine the actual population's size. Remember, he that controls the computer model controls the results. Like I said, blatant power grab. It's wrong no matter who does it.
2.20.2009 12:02pm
NowMDJD (mail):

Among the Republican Congressmen now requesting stimulus cash are abominable no-men* Adam Putnam, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Tom Rooney, Mario Diaz-Balart, Ginny Brown-Waite, Cliff Stearns, John Mica and Bill Posey.

Taking advantage of a spending bill with which you disagree is not hypocritical. These guys fought; they lost; the money is available; and they are participating in a program that Congress enacted and the president signed, and which is established under the laws of the United States.
2.20.2009 12:06pm
Oren:

The "intergenerational theft" line is particularly rich given the Republican performance from 2001 - 2007. Remember, according to Cheney, Delay, et al. "Deficits don't matter".

It was correct to accuse the right of intergenerational theft over the 2001 tax cuts and the refusal to provide funding for the war in Iraq.

It is correct to accuse the left of IGT over this current debacle.

It will be correct again every time a future Congress spends money without raising taxes.

We need a balanced budget amendment. In a nod to Keynesians, I will stipulate to a 10-year rolling average so they can build up surpluses during boom times and spend it during downturns. I'll even let them start the first year of the averaging at the best possible time.
2.20.2009 12:06pm
Oren:


Instead of actually counting people, they're going to "sample" the population and then use computer models to guess atdetermine the actual population's size. Remember, he that controls the computer model controls the results. Like I said, blatant power grab. It's wrong no matter who does it.

You are going to have to give up much of modern technology to remain intellectually consistent with your luddite view of multivariate statistics. Somehow, I doubt that's forthcoming.
2.20.2009 12:08pm
Dave N (mail):
PhanTom,

Pork in the stimulus bill? Nah, we Republicans are just imagining it--the $8 billion for light rail in the final bill (going into conference, it was $2 biillion in the Senate bill, $0 in the House bill) or $200 million to build a headquarters for Homeland Security or $3.4 billion for clean coal technology are just figments of our imagination.
2.20.2009 12:11pm
Sarcastro (www):
I call the Stimulus the "Giant Poo Pile." I also call moving the census "The Rape of Statistics." I furthermore call Obama "That Donkey."

I am not happy about That Donkey's involvement in passing the Giant Poo Pile. Furthermore, I am shocked and offended by That Donkey's Rape of Statistics.

This may be merely opinion, but I dare you to disagree with me!
2.20.2009 12:13pm
Angus:
a statute passed by Congress requires that this is to be done by the secretary of commerce. Moving the census to the white house is plain illegal.

Pop Quiz: Who has the Secretary of Commerce always worked for?
2.20.2009 12:20pm
Dave N (mail):
Angus,

Pop quiz. Who do U.S. Attorneys work for? If the answer to my question is the same as the answer to your question, why the outrage when some were fired?
2.20.2009 12:22pm
Adam J:
Oren- Isn't a balanced budget amendment a little too inflexible? Running in the red when there's a war (I'm thinking more like a WWII war for survival then Iraq war here) or when the economy is particularly bad might be a necessity.
2.20.2009 12:25pm
Anderson (mail):
Excellent! Looking forward to the Amendment establishing the selection of presidents by the Blogger College.
2.20.2009 12:25pm
Thoughtful (mail):

Pop Quiz: Who has the Secretary of Commerce always worked for?

The American people?

Heh, heh...just kidding...
2.20.2009 12:26pm
hawkins:

Pork in the stimulus bill? Nah, we Republicans are just imagining it


Im still confused by what qualifies as "pork." All spending will primarily benefit the constituents of certain members of Congress (unless its the money being paid to Filipinos, which seems absurd). Is the only way to avoid the "pork" label to have the spending benefit the constituents of congressmen opposed to the bill?
2.20.2009 12:26pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

Taking advantage of a spending bill with which you disagree is not hypocritical.

But taking the money makes them complicit in "intergenerational theft and reckless deficit spending." Someone looting a store is not absolved of guilt just because he was not the one to smash the shop window.

It's a blatant power grab, nothing more.

Instead of actually counting people, they're going to "sample" the population and then use computer models to guess atdetermine the actual population's size.

So, were the first six censuses somehow tainted by being tabulated by the President? As long as the Census is conducted by the Executive Branch, some politics will be involved.

Further, with some three hundred million people in the US, any count can be only a sample. Consider the millions of illegals who are actively hiding from the authorities -- who's making sure they get counted?
2.20.2009 12:31pm
corneille1640 (mail):
I'm interested in Mr. Kopel's "grades" and reading his reasoning, even though I tend to disagree with him more often than not.

However, the general survey of bloggers' grades does not seem to say very much. It's unsurprising (to me) that "left" bloggers tend to give better grades to Democrats and worse grades to Republicans and that "right" bloggers tend to do the opposite. I suppose it's mildly surprising that "left" bloggers rate the congressional Dems so poorly, but still, I'm not sure these cumulative stats, by themselves, really tell us much of anything at all.
2.20.2009 12:37pm
Gino:
No, the only way to avoid the "pork" label is to become the minority party so that you can hurl it at others. Until then, suck it up.
2.20.2009 12:43pm
mls (www):
One point about the census. Prior to the 1930 census, the census did not automatically result in a reapportionment. Thus, while the executive branch was responsible for conducting the census, no reapportionment would occur until Congress passed a new law. Thus, Congress retained the power to check any executive branch abuses with regard to the conduct of the census. Once the census/reapportionment was put on autopilot, that power disappeared.
2.20.2009 12:46pm
Angus:
Pop quiz. Who do U.S. Attorneys work for? If the answer to my question is the same as the answer to your question, why the outrage when some were fired?
Get back to me if Obama fires the Census Director in mid-census for not being overtly political enough in his job. I'll join the denunciations. Until then, the Census issue is nothing but faux outrage over what potentially, theoretically, maybe/maybe not, might or might not happen.
2.20.2009 12:47pm
Sunshine is good:
PS- we'd like to have some principled conservatives show us what good governance means and how to correctly reduce the size of government without reducing our standards of living. Any takers?

To paraphrase Dave Barry: The economy is like a car with a flat tire. You the citizen can't change the tire on your own, you need someone to help you. The Democrats will pull over to help you, and end up setting the car on fire. The Republicans will know how to change the tire, but won't stop as they are too busy on their way to the Elks club for Ugly Pants Night.
2.20.2009 12:48pm
Joe Kowalski (mail):

Is the only way to avoid the "pork" label to have the spending benefit the constituents of congressmen opposed to the bill?

Well, there have been a decent pack of congress-folk that voted no on the stimulus, and spouted a lot of hot-air in doing so, and now are tripping over themselves to take credit for the projects that are coming into their districts. It's almost as if they are making their 2010 Democratic opponents ads for them. Some strong principled opposition there...
2.20.2009 12:48pm
OrinKerr:
I wonder what grade conservative bloggers give conservative bloggers; what grade liberal bloggers give liberal bloggers; and what grade they each give the other.

Actually, never mind; I think I can guess.
2.20.2009 12:52pm
byomtov (mail):
Who do U.S. Attorneys work for? If the answer to my question is the same as the answer to your question, why the outrage when some were fired?

When census takers get fired for counting Republicans please report back.

You're a prosecutor yourself, I seem to recall. Do you really not understand the outrage over the US Attorney firings? No need to repeat the dance.

I know, "Clinton fired them all," etc. Pure BS Limbaughism.
2.20.2009 12:53pm
MarkField (mail):
The "intergenerational theft" argument is bogus.
2.20.2009 12:57pm
Andy Bolen (mail):
hooray for repuuuuuublicans!! (re: post title)
2.20.2009 1:11pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Obama gets a grade of Triple F Minus.

1. He ran as a post-racial candidate, but his Attorney General says, "the U.S. is a nation of cowards that fears frank discussion of race." How about that for a divisive remark? I've got two words for Mr. Holder, and they're not "happy birthday."

2. He appoints Tim Geithner as Treasury Secretary, a man who admits he's too stupid to use Turbo Tax. As president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York he was in on the original bailout (AIG, Bear Stearns/Maiden Lane, Lehman), a program that even he has to admit was a failure. The people voted for change, but got Henry Paulson with more hair.

3. Larry Summers. A really poor choice as an economic adviser. Summers along with Robert Rubin and Alan Greenspan conspired to smear Brooksley Born (Chairwoman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission) who called for regulation of OTC derivatives in 1998. OTC derivatives have played a major part, perhaps the major part in the current global financial crisis. You can read the details here.

4. Obama and his team have sidelined Paul Volker (Democrat and supporter of BHO), the only adult around them. Perhaps his integrity and intelligence are just to much to bear for a Chicago hustler.

5. Obama provided little leadership to Congress for the so-called "stimulus package." Like a pig in shit Congress had a wild time spending other people's money on their pet projects. Hardly any of the expenditures have a positive net present value. As such it's a consumption package that will yield little or no future revenue streams. Remember this when you go to the store in a few years and pay $10 for a loaf of bread.

6. Obama has dispatched 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. Thus we have another guns and butter president in the spirit of LBJ. Where does the money come from for this Barry? We are broke.
2.20.2009 1:30pm
Eric Henriksen:
David,

Re: The census

Where did you come down on the question of the "unitary executive"?
2.20.2009 1:35pm
Sarcastro (www):
A. Zarkov is always twirling towards freedom! He even gives Obama a bra size to show how girly he is!

1. Obama isn't really black AND I expect never to be asked to discuss race ever again! Whatta swindle!

2. Geitner's tac problems mean his attempts to stave off nationalization of the banks is just not enough! Taxes are easy, only a retard couldn't figgure them out! A retard who still hasn't solved our financial problems!

3. Larry Summers fits into this conspiracy I read on the Internets. I hate him.

4. Volker ROX he can totally save us somehow! Also, Obama is from Chicago!!!!!

5. Obama's economics are not those of conservatives. This makes him horrible.

6. War was awesome till Jan. 20. Then it suddenly became too expensive.
2.20.2009 1:43pm
hawkins:

No, the only way to avoid the "pork" label is to become the minority party so that you can hurl it at others. Until then, suck it up.


Suck it up? All I did was say that I dont quite understand the definition of pork.
2.20.2009 1:45pm
wfjag:

"Hate Speech": From a UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center study titled Hate Speech on Commercial Talk Radio:

Types of Hate Speech

We identified four types of speech that, through negative statements, create a climate of hate and prejudice: (1) false facts [including "simple falsehoods, exaggerated statements, or decontextualized facts [that] rendered the statements misleading"], (2) flawed argumentation, (3) divisive language, and (4) dehumanizing metaphors (table 1).




I furthermore call Obama "That Donkey."

I am not happy about That Donkey's involvement in passing the Giant Poo Pile. Furthermore, I am shocked and offended by That Donkey's Rape of Statistics.

This may be merely opinion, but I dare you to disagree with me!

But, if I match your "dare" with a "Triple Dog Dare", is that hate speech in Indiana, or, when opining about politicians, can you argue that the truth a defense?

One month since the swearing-in, and already the honeymoon is over and someone is comparing the Prez to a stubborn animal of limited intelligence. Obviously we need someone as Prez who will be "a uniter" and "a decider".
2.20.2009 1:46pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
MarkField:

The "intergenerational theft" argument is bogus.

The reasoning at your link is incomplete. The rate of return on the expenditure (as calculated from the net present value) must exceed the yield to maturity of the bond used to finance the project, otherwise the expenditure is a drain on future taxpayers. This idea is most easily expressed in the form of equations, but it's too hard to write them on this blog and I think few of the readers would understand them. Since we are dealing with uncertain cash flows we need to use some probability theory, introducing a further technical complication.
2.20.2009 1:47pm
Bart (mail):
Everyone who owns a 401K, all aboard the Obamanomics Scream Machine roller coaster. The Dow has now plunged to 7299 as financial sector stock turns to toilet paper on rumors that Obama will nationalize the banks.

Mr. President, get on TV and reassure the markets before we relive 1929.
2.20.2009 1:51pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Sarcastro:

"... is always twirling towards freedom! He even gives Obama a bra size to show how girly he is!"

He only recently started on progesterone and hasn't had a chance to fill out yet.
2.20.2009 1:55pm
Sarcastro (www):
A. Zarkov I was wondering what the minus meant!
2.20.2009 2:11pm
Bama 1L:
Summers along with Robert Rubin and Alan Greenspan conspired to smear Brooksley Born (Chairwoman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission)

Summers did say that Born was "doing a surprisingly good job for a girl in a math-intensive job."
2.20.2009 2:13pm
Oren:

Oren- Isn't a balanced budget amendment a little too inflexible? Running in the red when there's a war (I'm thinking more like a WWII war for survival then Iraq war here) or when the economy is particularly bad might be a necessity.


Would override by 2/3rds majority work?

Every time the Congress spends money it doesn't have, it's intergenerational theft. The fact that McCain was for it before he was against it (and vice versa for Reid) changes nothing.
2.20.2009 2:16pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
What a funny coincidence that after record deficits in the Bush years, the Congressional GOP has rediscovered fiscal discipline. Excuse me, but that isn't an A maneuver; that's an F.

Under the GOP's watch, we saved nothing during the seven fat years, squandering it with tax cuts aimed at establishing a larger rentier class flush with eight-digit bonuses. Oh, and with a stupid war that would have been even less popular had its costs been paid for, as they should have been, with taxes. (Nothing was heard from so-called conservatives then.) Now come the seven lean years, and having spend like drunken sailors when we needed to save, suddenly the GOP decides it's fiscal discipline time. You don't suppose they want austerity now to get rid of government spending programs like Social Security that they hate now, as they always have?
2.20.2009 2:16pm
nrein1 (mail):
The pork arguments crack me up. As someone asked above, what is pork? Apparently pork is spending money on tangible specific items, you know the type of thing the stimulus bill is suppose to do. Create jobs and imporve infrstructure by building things.

My gneeral problem with pork is not always the things that money is spent on, but rather the manner it which it is done. If a project is worthwhile it should get its money though the normal process, ie from the agency's budget it falls under.

The stimulus on the other hand is explicitly designed to go outside this process so as to ensure the money is spent quickly. While you may have some complaints that some of the itmes would not really stimulate anything, the argument that they are pork shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of the bill.
2.20.2009 2:27pm
Morat20 (mail):
It would be interesting to compare this blogger's polls with polls of, say, the public.

I wonder what that would look like?
2.20.2009 2:27pm
Oren:

The pork arguments crack me up. As someone asked above, what is pork? Apparently pork is spending money on tangible specific items, you know the type of thing the stimulus bill is suppose to do. Create jobs and imporve infrstructure by building things.

No, pork is money that is specifically directed by Congress to be spent on a particular thing.

It's not pork to say "We want to spend $1B on roads and bridges". It is pork to say "We want to spend $100M on the Blankity-Blank bridge in downtown Blankville.".

There is a normal, standards-based system in which independent civil-service types allocate resources on the basis of need, not on the basis of whose representative sits on Ways and Means.
2.20.2009 2:43pm
GMS:
Further, with some three hundred million people in the US, any count can be only a sample. Consider the millions of illegals who are actively hiding from the authorities — who's making sure they get counted?

I shudder to think that that was uttered non-sarcastically.
2.20.2009 3:08pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

I shudder to think that that was uttered non-sarcastically.

According to the Fourteenth Amendment, Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. Unless illegal immigrants fall under the "Indians not taxed" exclusion, they must be counted.
2.20.2009 3:21pm
Cardozo'd (www):
Wow, partisan blinders are alive and well. I used to think it was the moronic masses that were the problem...I stand corrected.
2.20.2009 3:25pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Bama 1L:

Summers did say that Born was "doing a surprisingly good job for a girl in a math-intensive job."

See THE MATH SEX GAP REVISITED: A THEORY OF EVERYONE by La Griffe du Lion. Witty entertaining and informaive.
2.20.2009 3:25pm
hawkins:
I havent spent much time thinking about whether aliens (legal and/or legal) should be counted in the census. But even if not officially counted, wouldnt we want to know how people there are in each state and the nation (rather than just knowing how many citizens there are)?
2.20.2009 3:26pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Sarcastro:

"I was wondering what the minus meant!"

Comes from a mechanics course I took where you could an "F" or an "FF" or even an "FFF." The tests were so hard most people got an "F." So the instructors had to invent really failing grades.
2.20.2009 3:28pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Obama should get an "F" on the stimulus package alone. This legislation is an economy buster.
2.20.2009 3:31pm
MarkField (mail):

The reasoning at your link is incomplete. The rate of return on the expenditure (as calculated from the net present value) must exceed the yield to maturity of the bond used to finance the project, otherwise the expenditure is a drain on future taxpayers.


Prof. Thoma expressly addressed this point: "But there are two important qualifications. If we use the money to build something that provides benefits to current and future generations that exceed the value of the resources flowing out of the country, there is still a net benefit from the transaction. It depends upon what is done with the money. If it is used, for example, to build things like infrastructure and schools, then future generations get a benefit along with a bill, and it is the net effect that matters."
2.20.2009 3:37pm
GMS:
Unless illegal immigrants fall under the "Indians not taxed" exclusion, they must be counted.

Regardless of whether illegals actively trying to conceal themselves should be "counted," I shudder to think that their numbers will be "estimated" using an extrapolation methodology based on various assumptions that may easily be manipulated. I shudder more to think that this process will be placed under the control of a political operation with a clear motive to pick assumptions that lead to a high estimation.
2.20.2009 3:49pm
Jim at FSU (mail):
I love how the libs in this thread are trying to portray me as a luddite for wanting the census result to come from counting actual human beings instead of a computer model.

Computer models are bad because:
-extrapolating from the data sample to the "real numbers" is done by making assumptions. Sometimes those assumptions are correct but the truth is that we don't know until we compare them to the actual results.
-Computer models based on assumptions about human behavior can be extremely fickle, especially if the underlying data isn't representative of the larger population or the person interpreting the data makes a mistake (intentional or otherwise). For example, polling in the early 90s predicted that the vast majority of Americans would strongly support an assault weapons ban- this was driven by bias in the data gathering end and the opposite turned out to be true. Dewey beat Truman in phone poll votes but not actual votes because of faulty assumptions about what portion of the voting public owned phones. The fundamental truth is that any deviation from actually gathering census data provides room for errors to creep in.
-even very well researched computer models that are frequently tested can be wrong. Look at exit polls for example. Huge discrepancies pop up fairly regularly between predicted and actual results. This despite vast sums of money and huge effort dedicated to accurately modeling election results based on exit polling.
-the census is run once every 10 years. This makes it difficult to subject census computer models to frequent scrutiny. Even worse, the assumptions that will inform our computer model cannot be tested because we'll be doing them instead of actual measurement.
-In fact, this is the stated goal of the democrats. They want to reach a different result than what they believe will be produced by actual counting. Rather than prove that their model is wrong, discrepancies will prove to them that they are correct. They believe (as do many others) that populations of traditional democratic stronghold areas like NY and CA are shrinking as people flee confiscatory tax rates and inept governance. They want to hide this by using computer modeling to account for "people they couldn't find"- nevermind the fact that leaving the area is an excellent explanation for people becoming unavailable.

For example, consider this:
I moved from MD to CA in the middle of 2000 and never got a census form to fill out. Would a computer model have placed me in CA or MD at the time? I couldn't be counted, so which state should benefit from counting me? What if, instead of moving from one blue state to another, I had moved to texas in the middle of 2000? Would the republicans benefit from this or the democrats? Why not simply leave me uncounted?
2.20.2009 3:52pm
MikeS (mail):
"United against intergenerational theft and reckless deficit spending. Too bad they didn't do the same under Bush."

That is, "will vote along strict party lines regardless of the issue." A for discipline, F for intelligence or responsibility.
2.20.2009 3:52pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Mark Field:

"If it is used, for example, to build things like infrastructure and schools, then future generations get a benefit along with a bill, and it is the net effect that matters."

It's not clear that even infrastructure and school spending have a positive net present value. One can drive over an old and even poorly maintained bridge for a long time. Students can learn in an old school building, and many of us did. Thoma needs to show us, or point to an analysis that supports his assertions. Of course most of the items in the stimulus package are pure consumption on their face.

We will get some pick up in jobs from this massive spending, but all that will go away when the spending stops. But we know the real reason for this spending: re-elect Democrats in 2010 and Obama in 2012.
2.20.2009 3:54pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Addendum to prior comment:

If a particular project has a positive net present value, then the project can be funded with a revenue bond so the government need not fund it directly. This is the normal way we fund infrastructure projects. Of course the Keynesian theory says that investors can become so spooked that they won't even buy an obviously good bond so the government must come up with the funds. This assumes the government knows better than the investors. Perhaps the government should be spooked too. There might be a very good reason to be spooked. This is the situation we are now in. It's far from obvious the stimulus package will have any net benefit. It might make everything much much worse. In any case this thing was rushed through so fast virtually no one read it. That should scare you. Screw the academic economists, use your own sense.
2.20.2009 4:03pm
GMS:
It's far from obvious the stimulus package will have any net benefit. It might make everything much much worse.

Zarkov, it sounds like you're talking about unintended consequences. Don't you know that it's only past actions that have unintended consequences? Mentioning unintended consquences when discussing current decisions is known as fear-mongering.
2.20.2009 4:09pm
MarkField (mail):

It's not clear that even infrastructure and school spending have a positive net present value. One can drive over an old and even poorly maintained bridge for a long time. Students can learn in an old school building, and many of us did. Thoma needs to show us, or point to an analysis that supports his assertions. Of course most of the items in the stimulus package are pure consumption on their face.


Prof. Thoma DID consider your point. He wasn't trying to prove that any particular project had benefit, he was just noting the factors which go into the analysis.

The implication of your post is that you've already concluded that the spending has no net value. You're the one who needs to show his work, unless you just want to assume your conclusion.
2.20.2009 4:23pm
smallrock:

"Spending other people's money like sailors on shore leave.

Anyone have a link to Mr. Kopels posts decrying the Bush administrations spending?

Didn't we go from a huge surplus to a huge deficit during that time?
2.20.2009 4:41pm
byomtov (mail):
If a particular project has a positive net present value, then the project can be funded with a revenue bond so the government need not fund it directly. This is the normal way we fund infrastructure projects.

Nonsense. It's the way we fund some projects - like water works - that directly produce revenue. But lots of projects which provide a net benefit to society do not directly generate cash that could be used to pay off a bond issue. A public school is one example, road and bridge repairs another.

Besides, what differnce does it make if the government borrows the money with a revenue bond or just as part of its regular borrowings?
2.20.2009 4:52pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
David:

I've read each of these posts on what "left" and "right" bloggers think, and here's my question: Has anything you've come across surprised you at all? I mean, isn't most of this, "the left bloggers generally like Obama and liberal stuff, while the right bloggers generally don't like Obama or liberal stuff"?
2.20.2009 4:57pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
byomtov:

"But lots of projects which provide a net benefit to society do not directly generate cash that could be used to pay off a bond issue. A public school is one example, road and bridge repairs another."


We do that, but those are consumption items not investment. I never said that consumption can't be a benefit. However the US is now essentially bankrupt. We can't afford extra consumption until we pay off the debt that's dragging the economy down. The stimulus package amounts to a gigantic bundle of consumption paid by either printing money or taking on more debt.

"Besides, what differnce does it make if the government borrows the money with a revenue bond or just as part of its regular borrowings?"

With a revenue bond the investors take the risk instead of the taxpayers. If the project fails they get stuck with a worthless bond that goes into default.
2.20.2009 5:11pm
Arkady:

I've read each of these posts on what "left" and "right" bloggers think, and here's my question: Has anything you've come across surprised you at all? I mean, isn't most of this, "the left bloggers generally like Obama and liberal stuff, while the right bloggers generally don't like Obama or liberal stuff"?


Wait a minute...are you telling us someone pulled a rabbit out of a hat after putting the rabbit in the hat?
2.20.2009 5:15pm
theobromophile (www):
Err... not to hijack, but how do you start talking about the stimulus bill and end up positing an inverse relationship between cup size and both mathematical ability and leadership ability?

/rant from an outlier
2.20.2009 5:18pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Mark Field:

"The implication of your post is that you've already concluded that the spending has no net value. You're the one who needs to show his work, unless you just want to assume your conclusion."

I have not gone over the package line by line, but this diagram presents the whole package and one can plainly see that most of the items are consumption not investment. It's pretty tedious to do a good net present value analysis with the uncertainties. Clearly Congress has not done that-- they didn't even read their own bill. As far as I can tell the allocations were done on a political not an economic basis. The burden of proof rests with those who want to spend the money.
2.20.2009 5:19pm
JoeSixpack (mail):
I understand that they will be using the same computer models that they use to predict what the temperature will be in a hundred years.
2.20.2009 5:23pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"... how do you start talking about the stimulus bill and end up positing an inverse relationship between cup size and both mathematical ability ..."

We don't "posit," we prove.
2.20.2009 5:23pm
Curious Passerby (mail):
Unless illegal immigrants fall under the "Indians not taxed" exclusion, they must be counted.

Isn't it possible that many if not most illegals from Mexico have some Indian blood and also that most are not paying taxes? Seems clear they shouldn't be counted in the census.
2.20.2009 5:45pm
Guest12345:
It is pork to say "We want to spend $100M on the Blankity-Blank bridge in downtown Blankville.".


Actually, that is an example of an earmark. Pork is spending included in a bill that isn't related to the purpose of the bill.

That is, any spending in the stimulus package that isn't (relatively immediately) stimulative is pork.
2.20.2009 5:55pm
MarkField (mail):

I have not gone over the package line by line, but this diagram presents the whole package and one can plainly see that most of the items are consumption not investment.


I agree that much of the stimulus package consists of consumption. So what? If the money gets spent productively, there's still a net benefit. If you want to argue that it won't be spent productively, you can make that argument, but so far you haven't.
2.20.2009 7:12pm
byomtov (mail):
but those are consumption items not investment.

How is that? You can't just claim that anything that doesn't throw off cash is, from the government's POV, "consumption." The benefits of school and infrastructure are realized over a long period of time.

With a revenue bond the investors take the risk instead of the taxpayers. If the project fails they get stuck with a worthless bond that goes into default.

Yes, but assuming the project works out OK, it's all the same, except that the revenue bond likely carries a higher interest rate to compensate for the risk.
2.20.2009 7:42pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
Prof. Thoma expressly addressed this point: "But there are two important qualifications. If we use the money to build something that provides benefits to current and future generations that exceed the value of the resources flowing out of the country, there is still a net benefit from the transaction. It depends upon what is done with the money. If it is used, for example, to build things like infrastructure and schools, then future generations get a benefit along with a bill, and it is the net effect that matters."
The problem I see with this is that these are precisely the programs that are counter-cyclical. Maybe, just maybe, 75 years ago you could just hand a shovel to someone and create useful infrastructure that had a positive rate of return (esp. given the pay that those workers got). But not today. Rather, almost anything worth building by the government these days cannot be built quickly.
Actually, that is an example of an earmark. Pork is spending included in a bill that isn't related to the purpose of the bill.
From one point of view then, nothing in the "stimulus" package would be pork.
That is, any spending in the stimulus package that isn't (relatively immediately) stimulative is pork.
But then, from this point of view, much (IMHO most) of the package is pork.
2.20.2009 8:05pm
Mac (mail):
MarkField,

I assume you were either not around in the 70's and early 80's or, if around, were not of an age to be aware of much. However, the Fed is printing money so fast the printing presses are smoking. See how valuable you think all of this consumption is when every time you go to the grocery store the prices are up by 5-10 cents or more and mortgage rates are 16% plus. I know as a Republican I am not supposed to worry about "the poor", however, it is "the poor" who will pay the dearest price for this insanity. How do you solve a problem caused by too much debt that could not be paid off by taking on more debt that can't be paid for? I don't get it. Perhaps, I am a simpleton, but it doesn't make a lot of sense to me.


Also, Bush inherited a recession and then had 9/11. The country was in a mess economically. His tax cuts got us out of that and he did create 7 million new jobs. Remember, every time they cut taxes the revenues to the Treasury increase. The problem, with both parties, is not the tax cuts it is the spending Congress does with all the extra revenue. They have no fiscal discipline. He did double the national debt fighting 2 wars and he spent money like a Democrat on everything else. Agreed.

However, Obama has doubled the national debt again in less than 30 days in office and is talking like this is just the beginning.

Personally, I wish he would just shut up and stop talking about the economy. Every time he opens his mouth the Market tanks again.
2.20.2009 8:11pm
Nick056:
Prof. Kopel, you wrote:


Moving the census to the White House from Commerce is Chicago-style sleaze.


This is an interpretation of events, not a full and fair statement of fact. Make of it what you will, but this is a WaPo description:


"[...] Under the Bush administration, the Census Bureau director reported to the commerce secretary. Obama is adding oversight of the director by senior White House aides, [b]but keeping the bureau itself under the umbrella of the Department of Commerce, White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said."[/b]


I won't tell you what to think about all that, Mr. Kopel, but repeating as fact (the census has been moved wholesale) something factually untrue comes across as careless or deceptive. Marc Ambinder offers the following analysis:


When black and Hispanic groups protested Gregg's nomination, the White House assured them, perhaps overeagerly, that Census policy is carefully overseen by the White House. Republicans, willfully or genuinely, took this to mean that Rahm Emanuel or Michael Strautmanis or someone at the White House would micromanage the Census and bypass the chain of command.

When appointed, the director of the Census will report to Gregg, who reports to the President (through staff), just like the director of the Census in the Bush administration reported to Elaine Chao, who reported to President Bush.


In other words, we're not sure to what extent Gregg was going to be bypassed or disinvested here, and we know that the census is not being on its face removed from the Commerce department, yet your comments suggest otherwise.

I think it's more germane that Gregg also cited the stimulus as a major reason for leaving. Yet the shape and scope of the of the bill was already clear when he accepted the position. In fact, the revisions subsequent to his appointment were conservative in-roads. So what was that about? Did he just then pick up a newspaper?
2.20.2009 9:01pm
Mac (mail):
And, then there is Joe Biden, who stated that the stimulus bill has a 30% chance of failure. To all of you who think it is such a great idea, perhaps you should listen to Joe. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
2.20.2009 9:14pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
mac:

Obama has doubled the national debt


You seem to be promoting the same utter nonsense that I addressed in another thread, here. It's interesting how regularly this pops up.
2.20.2009 9:24pm
Mac (mail):
jukeboxgrad,

Could not get the Bloomberg website to open, but the Treasury Direct website was fascinating. Thanks for the pointer. I have bookmarked it and it may become my new most favorite web site.

I agree that you have a point, however, the figures do not include the money that has been promised until it is spent, no? When I talk about the debt of the "stimulus" bill, it is the future debt as we spend it. Even the Government can't spend that much money overnight, although I am sure they would like to, they are far to incompetent to achieve that goal.

However, we are committed to spend and spend and spend. That figure will increase the national debt, over time, enormously, I think.

Does that site have figures on the annual deficit? Do you have any more web sites like that one at your fingertips? I'd like to get figures on annual tax revenues for the past 60-70 years.

Thanks again for that pointer.
2.20.2009 11:15pm
Mac (mail):
PS
I really, really, really hope that I am totally wrong about the utter failure of this bill and the debt it will rack up.
2.20.2009 11:17pm
MarkField (mail):

The problem I see with this is that these are precisely the programs that are counter-cyclical. Maybe, just maybe, 75 years ago you could just hand a shovel to someone and create useful infrastructure that had a positive rate of return (esp. given the pay that those workers got). But not today. Rather, almost anything worth building by the government these days cannot be built quickly.


You're free to make this argument of course, but (a) it's not clear that anything needs to be built quickly (the SF Fed forecasts a large employment gap into 2010, which makes the delay a feature rather than a bug), and (b) you (or Zarkov, since it's really his argument) would have to "show his work".


I assume you were either not around in the 70's and early 80's or, if around, were not of an age to be aware of much.


Sadly, the odds are very high that I'm older than you. I remember the 60s, even, all too well.


However, the Fed is printing money so fast the printing presses are smoking. See how valuable you think all of this consumption is when every time you go to the grocery store the prices are up by 5-10 cents or more and mortgage rates are 16% plus.


Over the past year, inflation is effectively nil. We're deleveraging and deflation is a much greater immediate concern.

That doesn't mean inflation isn't a long term issue; it is. But we need to balance short term and long term here.


How do you solve a problem caused by too much debt that could not be paid off by taking on more debt that can't be paid for? I don't get it. Perhaps, I am a simpleton, but it doesn't make a lot of sense to me.


I don't know what you mean by "debt that can't be paid off". The debt can be paid off; it's just a question of when. One way to help pay it off is to make sure we don't have resources (people, plants, etc.) sitting unused. We all make more money when those resources are producing, not when they're just sitting there. What the stimulus does is take unused resources and put them to use. That's a good thing.


Also, Bush inherited a recession and then had 9/11. The country was in a mess economically. His tax cuts got us out of that and he did create 7 million new jobs.


It's overstating the case to say that the Bush tax cuts "got us out" of the recession. They probably did contribute a small amount to doing so.

The 7 million jobs under Bush was the smallest number per capita by any president since Hoover. That's not a bragging point. Clinton created 23 million, and he took over in a recession also.


Remember, every time they cut taxes the revenues to the Treasury increase.


As Greg Mankiw and others have noted, this is incorrect. Tax revenues may show a temporary increase, but they decline as the time gets longer. That's what happened to Bush, and it's one reason why his deficits were so large.


However, Obama has doubled the national debt again in less than 30 days in office and is talking like this is just the beginning.


I assume this is hyperbole. He isn't even close to doubling the national debt (which is currently almost $11 trillion).
2.20.2009 11:22pm
Cornellian (mail):
I gave them an A: "United against intergenerational theft and reckless deficit spending. Too bad they didn't do the same under Bush."

In other words, you've awarded an "A" to a group of politicians who are perfectly confortable with intergenerational theft and reckless deficit spending, as long as they're the ones doing the stealing and spending.
2.21.2009 2:31am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
mac:

you have a point


I'm glad you acknowledge that I "have a point," but it's not just that I "have a point." It's that your statement ("Obama has doubled the national debt") is false, and by a very wide margin. It would be nice if you clearly admitted that, but you haven't.

=====================
cornellian:

In other words, you've awarded an "A" to a group of politicians who are perfectly confortable with intergenerational theft and reckless deficit spending, as long as they're the ones doing the stealing and spending.


Maybe that's because he is himself "perfectly confortable with intergenerational theft and reckless deficit spending," as long it's the GOP that is "doing the stealing and spending."

Under Bush, the national debt grew 86%, an increase of about $5 trillion. No other president had ever added nearly that much to the debt (and the two largest factors were tax cuts for the rich, and the Iraq war). As far as I can tell, Kopel spoke up to complain about this the following number of times: zero.
2.21.2009 8:21am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
But it's a little unfair for me to single out GWB. A couple of other people should be mentioned.

77% of our national debt was accumulated under three presidents: Reagan, Bush and Bush. Under Reagan, the national debt almost tripled. The debt is now 11 times higher than it was when Reagan took over.

Oddly enough, large tax cuts for the rich have a large effect on the national debt. But it never occurred to the GOP to describe large tax cuts for the rich as "intergenerational theft."
2.21.2009 8:32am
Tony Tutins (mail):

The fundamental truth is that any deviation from actually gathering census data provides room for errors to creep in.

The fundamental truth is that "actually gathering census data" guarantees an undercount, as Jim at FSU exemplifies. People move, they go on vacation, they have no fixed address, they're living in a tent in Golden Gate Park, etc. Concern for "errors creeping in" would naturally cause one to reject the haphazard approach of "direct enumeration."

Actually, where Jim lived in mid-2000 is irrelevant. "Census Day" was April 1, 2000 -- Jim's existence should have been credited to whichever state he lived in at the time. He should have received his questionnaire at his residence with ample time to fill it out.
2.21.2009 12:27pm
Mac (mail):
"Between guarantees, liquidity support, and capitalization, the government has provided between $7 trillion to $9 trillion of help to the financial system. De facto, the government is already controlling a good chunk of the banking system. The question is: Do you want to move to the de jure step."
jukeboxgrad,

The above is from an article in the WSJ yesterday quoting Nouriel Roubini. You can go and read the article yourself, so I won't bother with his credentials.

Sorry, I will admit that I was wrong. I value truth and facts so, as I said before, I really appreciate the pointer. However, as you can see from the above quote, we are "on the hook" for 7 to 9 trillion. If I sign a mortgage for 500,000 with 50,000 down, I in debt for 450,000 which is the money I promise to pay. I am not in debt for the 50,000. It seems to me if the US gov. has committed itself to this, taken out a mortgage so to speak, then we are in debt for 7-9 trillion which is new spending even though we have not yet paid the entire amount. That is getting close to doubling the national debt.. Can you agree to that point?

Actually, if you want to get really depressed, I understand that we are actually in debt to the tune of 65 trillion but the politicians hide that by "funny" accounting that is against the law for a business to engage in.

We are taking on all this debt, what are we going to do when the baby boomers retire and Social Security and Medicare become insolvent as they are going to do? Countries do go bankrupt. Look at Iceland. Sates who spend money they don't have can go bankrupt. California, N.Y. can not sustain their spending and continue to meet their commitments. The bill has to be paid someday by Dems and Republicans.
boy, am I depressed.
2.21.2009 1:48pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
I will admit that I was wrong


Thanks, I appreciate that. The guy in the other thread who made the same wrong statement you made simply disappeared.

Between guarantees, liquidity support, and capitalization, the government has provided between $7 trillion to $9 trillion of help to the financial system


You seem to be using that remark to (at least partially) justify your original statement ("Obama has doubled the national debt"), but there are several reasons why that doesn't work. Those numbers from Roubini are obviously not a reference to events in the last 33 days. Because in the same article he also said this:

The kind of government interference in the economy that we saw in the last year of Bush was unprecedented.


So he seems to be talking primarily, if not exclusively, about Bush's actions, not Obama's.

Also, he is talking about items (like "guarantees") which (for better or worse) are not part of the normal definition of "national debt."

That is getting close to doubling the national debt.. Can you agree to that point?


If you want to have a discussion using a much broader definition of that term ("national debt"), that's fine, but the discussion should be fair. That means talking about what other presidents have done, in the context of the broader definition. Bush added about $5 trillion to the national debt, using the conventional definition. Using an expanded definition, that number would be higher.

You're using the term ("national debt") in a vague, undefined manner, and you're not being careful to apply the same definition to presidents other than Obama. And you're implying that Roubini made a statement about Obama when in fact he seemed to be making a statement about Bush.

if you want to get really depressed, I understand that we are actually in debt to the tune of 65 trillion but the politicians hide that by "funny" accounting that is against the law for a business to engage in.


You're right that the numbers get much bigger, depending on how one chooses to define "debt."

Anyway, conservatives who now talk about being "depressed" have more credibility if they were part of the small number of conservatives who were saying things like this in 2005, or earlier:

After five years of Republican reign, it's time for small-government conservatives to acknowledge that the GOP has forfeited its credibility when it comes to spending restraint.


But that's not mostly what we heard from conservatives. Mostly what we heard was stuff like this (also in 2005):

The deficits that Bush ran up in the years in which the country was teetering on the verge of a serious recession had the beneficial effect of righting the economy. In that sense, deficits not only didn't matter, but were a force for economic good.


Very amusing. So deficit spending is a good idea when a GOP president is using it while "the country was teetering on the verge of a serious recession." But if the president is a Dem, and the country is 'teetering on the verge of a serious depression,' then suddenly deficit spending is "intergenerational theft."

Even though Bush's deficit spending helped create the mess we're in. Bush spent money we didn't have on a war we didn't need, based on the principle that spending money on nation-building is a great idea as long as it's someone else's nation. And the GOP's other guiding principle was large tax cuts for the rich. Tax cuts with a price tag of $2 trillion. Mission accomplished!

By the way, if you like Roubini, you should know that he supports what Obama is doing, and says Obama should be doing even more (link, link, link).
2.22.2009 9:30am
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):

And, then there is Joe Biden, who stated that the stimulus bill has a 30% chance of failure.
Gen. Petraeus said the surge had a 25% chance of success. So the stimulus is a sure winner, right? Especially if we use the ambiguous standards of success applied to Iraq.

Incidentally, isn't it funny that when in Iraq, we provided infrastructure stimulus in shrink-wrapped packages of Benjamins, and that was cool with the GOP, but when it's money to Americans, why, GOP governors send it back. Maybe we should sweeten the deal by allocating a percentage for Xe!
2.22.2009 12:26pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
when in Iraq, we provided infrastructure stimulus in shrink-wrapped packages of Benjamins


Indeed. And here are some details about that:

The biggest transfer of cash in history took place from May 2003 to June 2004 when the U.S. Federal Reserve of New York shipped $12 billion in bills of various denominations to war-torn Iraq. Over the course of one year, a fleet of C-130s carried, from New York to Baghdad, 484 pallets weighing a total of 363 tons and holding 281 million bank notes.


Most of that money is unaccounted for. We lost track of literally hundreds of tons of cash. More details: link, pdf.

It's a little hard to understand why the GOP is in favor of nation-building only when it's someone else's nation. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that colossal contract shenanigans are much easier to hide when they happen on the other side of the planet and are obscured by the fog of war.
2.22.2009 2:08pm

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