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Archive for June, 2011

The Death of the Bush Doctrine

June 27th, 2011


This piece was originally posted on The Huffington Post.

The Bush Doctrine is dead. It was mortally wounded in Iraq. It finally expired in Afghanistan.

The doctrine was promulgated by President George W. Bush in his second inaugural address on January 20, 2005, when he said, “The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.” That made it a matter of U.S. national security to turn other countries into democracies. Even to force democracy with guns and tanks, as we did in Iraq, and as we are trying to do in Afghanistan.

We’re now seeing growing impatience with Afghanistan in the Republican Party. “I think we have learned that our troops should not go off and try to fight a war of independence for another nation,” Mitt Romney said at this month’s Republican debate in New Hampshire. Jon Huntsman advocates “an aggressive drawdown” of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. “I’m not sure the fate of our country is going to be determined on the prairies of Afghanistan,” Huntsman said last week. Read the rest of this entry »

Doing Hard Time in Fossil Fuel Prisons: Is Public Investment in R&D Un-American?

June 17th, 2011


This piece was originally posted on The Huffington Post.

The June 15 House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing (PDF) on federal energy programs smacked of science fiction. A government agency is actually doing its job. Fuel for cars made from sunlight, wind turbines that could be suspended in the air like kites on their own power, a method to capture carbon dioxide based on the human lung; all are possibilities that the Department of Energy (DOE) is helping explore.

Read the rest of this entry »

Look to ’94 Crime Bill to Solve Budget Crisis

June 16th, 2011


This piece was originally published in The Hill.

The FBI reported that crime took another dip last year. That came as a surprise, because conventional wisdom held that crime rates track the economy: fewer jobs, more crime.

But the decline in the crime rate is not a one year blip. In the last fifteen years, the number of murders in America declined by one-third, assaults by one-fourth, and car thefts by one-half.[i]

Is there a lesson here for the budget debate? Just as the budget is the dominant, intractable, insoluble problem today, so was crime in the 1990s. Just as a major deal on an anti-crime package seemed improbable then, a major deal on the budget seems a pipedream today.

Read the rest of this entry »

Smart, Smart, and Stupid

June 13th, 2011


This piece was originally posted on The Huffington Post.

“Smart . . . smart . . . and stupid.” That was my eighty-something-year-old mother’s reply when I asked her what she thought of Bill Clinton during the impeachment saga of 1998.

We can now add Anthony Weiner’s name to the list of smart, smart and stupid politicians. It’s a long list that includes Gary Hart, John Edwards, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dan Crane, Gerry Studds, Eliot Spitzer, Mark Foley, Mark Sanford, Jim McGreevey, John Ensign, Bob Packwood, David Vitter, Eric Massa and Christopher Lee. You might want to throw in John F. Kennedy.

The public’s immediate response to such revelations: “What were they thinking?” What is it about the lethal combination of sex and politics that makes so many men “smart, smart and stupid”? Read the rest of this entry »

Dwell on Jobs, Not Cuts

June 7th, 2011


This piece was originally published in Politico.

The latest unemployment figures convey a powerful warning: This is the worst possible time to make deep cuts in government spending.

Uncertainty about the future, particularly government policy, is causing private businesses to slow hiring. State and local governments are shedding jobs at an alarming rate — 28,000 public-sector jobs were cut in May. The result is not just personal tragedy but also puts public health, education and safety at risk.

Case in point: The E. coli outbreak in Europe has infected nearly 2,000 people and killed at least 18. The Food and Drug Administration just got new powers to inspect imported food but needs an additional $1.5 billion to do this. Instead, its budget is being cut.

Right now, Washington is fixated on Aug. 2. That’s the latest possible date for raising the debt ceiling without endangering the good faith and credit of the United States. All the talk is about spending cuts: How much Republicans will demand and how far Democrats will be willing to go. Tax increases? Off the table. Meanwhile, economic stimulus funds have been depleted and the government has no tools left for further stimulation. Read the rest of this entry »

Ending the Gay Health Care Tax

June 1st, 2011


This piece was originally posted on The Huffington Post.

Suppose your boss told the IRS that you made three thousand dollars more than you actually did this year? Or added a few hundred dollars in pretend income each pay period, withheld taxes on it, but then didn’t actually put it in your paycheck? And what if the federal government forced your employer to pay taxes on this imaginary chunk of cash?

It may sound crazy, but that’s the reality for many gay Americans — and the companies who employ them.

It turns out that even a gay couple that is legally married or registered as domestic partners cannot accept standard employer benefits like health care for a spouse or partner without paying a special and cumbersome tax. That is because, according to federal tax law, employer-provided health care insurance for an opposite-sex spouse is considered a benefit, but for a same-sex couple, it is considered income. The difference? Income is taxed; benefits are not. Read the rest of this entry »