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Friday, May 30, 2003
By Steven Taylor

After collapsing in Game 5, the Spurs got their act together and knocked out the Mavericks. On to the Nets!

Ok: two basketball posts in a row, back to politics (and truth is, I am really more a football guy…)

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Thursday, May 29, 2003
By Steven Taylor

Speaking of clones, is Nick Van Exel of the Dallas Mavericks the Mini-Me version of Charles Barkley, or what?

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By Steven Taylor

Kevin Drum of CalPundit has an interesting post on taxes as a percentage of GDP. He also points out the looming financial burden that the Baby Boomers are going to create on the welfare system and he opines that tax increases are needed over time.

I concur that there are some serious fiscal choices that need to be made vis-a-vis Medicare and Social Security (privatization, anyone?), but that really isn’t what motivated a comment.

Rather, the noteworthy thing about his post is that it is classic Democratic thinking on the budget and taxes–he assumes that the percentage of GDP that the government received in taxes is solely the result of one element of fiscal policy: the tax rate. Not only does he ignore the issue of whether spending can or should be changed, he also ignores that the main issue that impacts revenue is the health of the economy–receipts to the federal government surge when the ecnomy soars (as I pointed out here). Indeed, this spreadsheet from the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that there is a fairly close correlation between growth and spikes in the percentage of GDP controlled by the budget, as shown on the chart Kevin posted.

Indeed, this view of tax dollars is one of the most fundamental differences between Reps and Dems. I noted a similar difference in perception in Joe Kleins’s current column in Time. He starts off with the following:

The money we talk about in Washington, D.C., is not the government’s money,” said President Bush, celebrating the imminent passage of his latest tax cut, as he liberated an estimated $22 million from the party faithful at a fund raiser in the nation’s capital last week. “The money we talk about in Washington, D.C., is the people’s money.” Bush used this formulation throughout the 2000 campaign, and I always found it a bit confusing. It sounded as if the Federal Government were a toxic fungus implanted upon the banks of the Potomac by communists, space aliens or Hollywood celebrities and not, in the words of history’s greatest Republican, “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

But then, on the eerie afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001, Bush’s counselor Karen Hughes appeared at FBI headquarters the President had just touched down at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska and announced that “your Federal Government continues to function effectively.” The pronoun was almost as astonishing as the sentiment, but the moment of common purpose seems to have passed.

And his perception of what it means to talk about the “people’s money” is quite striking. Somehow to him pointing out that all the dollars in Washington come from citizens is to paint DC as a fungus. I don’t see it that way at all–I agree that it is “our” government, and I also see the need for our government–but I also know that our government is funded by our dollars.

In short–it is not a crime, nor is it just being nice to “the rich”, or even government loathing to think that the Feds control too much of the GDP and that taxes ought to be cut.

The basic difference between Dems and Reps on this issue is that Dems see the programs, both that exist and that they want to exist, and the Reps see that the tax dollars come from the citizenry. It is a matter of perspective.

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By Steven Taylor

Since John Lemon opined that the following, now-former masthead pic looked like some kind of polisci orgy:

I decided to make some adjustments to the blog’s logos. Comments welcome–and as always, this is a all a work in progress (or regress, as the case may be).

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By Steven Taylor

…two terms is plenty.

And this isn’t self-serving at all (and yes, I know he is arguing it wouldn’t apply to him–but this is called “dreaming out loud”): Clinton: Terms Limits Could Be Changed

Former President Bill Clinton says in the future, a former two-term president should be able to return to office later in life – but the Constitution would have to be amended.

“It wouldn’t affect me, but for future generations the 22nd amendment should be modified,” Clinton said Wednesday during an appearance at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum.

“There may come a time when we have elected a president at age 45 or 50 and then 20 years later the country comes up with the same sort of problems the president faced before, and the people would like to bring that man or woman back,” he said.

That certainly sounds like a good argument for amending the Constitution…,

And, yeah, right:

He added that he didn’t feel strongly about the issue, though.

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By Steven Taylor

Montgomery is getting a new double-A basball club, and the name, just revealed over the weekend, is the Montgomery Biscuits.

Is there a worse name is all of sports? (check out the link to see the fearsome breakfast-sandwich-like logo).

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By Steven Taylor

Granted, it is too early to start drawing conclusions, but this is pretty significant nonetheless: Israeli, Palestinian Premiers Discuss Peace Plan (especially after Arafat attempted to re-insert himself into the process earlier in the week.)

And this isn’t too helpful:

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group affiliated with the Fatah (news – web sites) faction of President Yasser Arafat (news – web sites) and Abbas, issued a statement in which it said it rejected “the road map to hell.”

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By Steven Taylor

GDP:

Durable Goods:

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By Steven Taylor

Thanks to Joel Davis ofEvent Horizon for linking to PoliBlog.

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By Steven Taylor

U.S. Economy Grew at 1.9% Rate in First Quarter

The good:

The U.S. economy performed a little bit better in the first three months of 2003 than first thought, growing at an annual rate of 1.9 percent. But even with the improvement, the pace of economic growth was still below normal.

And the continued not so good…

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, in a Capitol Hill appearance last week, predicted that economic growth in the current April-June quarter “is going to be quite soft.”

Private economists agree. They don’t think the economy will do much better than the first quarter. Forecasts for second-quarter economic growth range from a 1.8 percent rate to a rate of more than 2 percent.

Greenspan told lawmakers that the “economy continues to be buffeted by strong cross currents.”

He said recent economic reports on employment and production have been “on the weak side.” But improved conditions in financial markets and strong productivity gains — a key to the nation’s long-term economic well being — augured well for the economy’s future.

And more good: Retail Sales Pace Picks Up, Hinting of Broader Rebound

Retail sales at chain stores rose last week at a faster pace than they had for most of the previous month, according to two surveys released today. In one survey, conducted by the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, sales increased 3.1 percent compared with the week a year earlier, the biggest gain since January.

And general Weirdness: Economy Picked Up Speed as 2003 Began; Jobs Scarce

Stronger consumer spending helped push U.S. growth ahead at a modestly faster rate than previously thought in the first quarter but jobs remain scarce, government reports on Thursday showed.

And:

  • “some 3.76 million Americans continued drawing jobless pay in the week ended May 17, up 83,000 from the prior week and the highest total since 3.8 million in November, 2001, shortly after the terror attacks in New York and the Washington area that temporarily hobbled economic activity.”
  • “Business investment softened in the first quarter, contracting at a 4.8 percent rate after expanding 2.3 percent in the last quarter of 2002. Spending on equipment and software dropped even more rapidly, falling at a 6.3 percent rate after a 6.2 percent growth pace the final quarter of 2002. ”
  • “There were some signs of continuing modest recovery, including a 2.5 percent rise in corporate profits after taxes to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $484.4 billion in the first quarter.”
  • “The department also revised its estimate of exports. Instead of being down at a 3.2 percent rate in the first quarter, they fell just 1.4 percent, reflecting a moderately better trade performance over the quarter. ”
  • Plus durable goods orders and shipments are down.
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