Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ezra Klein, Sounding like a Real Dick

Here's Ezra Klein on the senate's configuration of 2 per state:

But now that we've been the United States of America for a while and none of the states seem likely to secede, the fact that California has 69 times more people than Wyoming but the same representation in the Senate is an offensive anachronism, at least to Californians.

What a dick. If California doesn't like it, all they need is to get 2/3 of the states and then the voters of those states to agree with them. Or something like that. Until then, tough shit.

An anachronism is something that belongs to an earlier time. "2 senators per state" belongs in this time, by definition, unless the constitution is amended. That's how it works. Period.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Housing Prices Need to Fall

The 2007 economic collapse was largely caused by the inevitable popping of a real estate bubble fueled by bad lending. As soon as most folks understand this, they come to conclude that real estate prices need to fall. Both to reflect the new reality of demand for home ownership, and to bring prices back in line with, let's say, median household income. Or some other proxy for the amount of housing the average household can afford.

Now, even the NY Times is joining the refrain:

Housing Woes Bring a New Cry: Let the Market Fall

...As the economy again sputters and potential buyers flee — July housing sales sank 26 percent from July 2009 — there is a growing sense of exhaustion with government intervention. Some economists and analysts are now urging a dose of shock therapy that would greatly shift the benefits to future homeowners: Let the housing market crash. When prices are lower, these experts argue, buyers will pour in, creating the elusive stability the government has spent billions upon billions trying to achieve...

The further the market descends, however, the more miserable one group — important both politically and economically — will be: the tens of millions of homeowners who have already seen their home values drop an average of 30 percent. The poorer these owners feel, the less likely they will indulge in the sort of consumer spending the economy needs to recover. If they see an identical house down the street going for half what they owe, the temptation to default might be irresistible. That could make the market’s current malaise seem minor.

Caught in the middle is an administration that gambled on a recovery that is not happening. “The administration made a bet that a rising economy would solve the housing problem and now they are out of chips,” said Howard Glaser, a former Clinton administration housing official with close ties to policy makers in the administration. “They are deeply worried and don’t really know what to do.”

Look folks, we know where we want to a housing market where homes prices reflect demand for homes and the ability of the average person to pay for that home. We're Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption. Either we crawl through the river of shit now to freedom, letting prices fall. Or we wait and wait until we're old and gray and hope for housing to rebound in a decade or two.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Trying to Call "PARADE!"

We've known for some time that these hard times were generating mucho public dissatisfaction. Politically, that's manifesting as serious anti-incumbent sentiment. Since there are so many more democratic incumbents right now, the GOP is poised to benefit greatly from "sweep these bums out!"

Unable to simply enjoy this good fortune. GOP party leaders are eager to grab a baton, run to the front of the onrolling crowd, and call "PARADE."

GOP Readies Agenda Rollout
Just weeks before House Republican leaders are set to announce the contents of a proposed governing agenda if they retake the majority, some GOP politicians and grasstops activists are growing nervous about those plans....

 Earlier this year, a team of leading House Republicans and their staffs devised a program called America Speaking Out which allows any visitor to the program's Web site to enter ideas about what issues Congress should be legislating. Next, Republicans in the lower chamber were encouraged at the beginning of this August's congressional recess to discuss ideas laid out in a 22-page packet provided to RealClearPolitics, and then return to Washington this month with feedback from their constituents...
The 22-page recess packet of trial balloons does include an explicit ban on all federal funding for abortion. That's one item on Dannenfelser's list, but she has two more: requiring parental notification for abortion-seeking minors, and requiring physicians who perform abortions to notify women who are at least 20 weeks into their pregnancies that fetuses can feel pain in the process. Said Dannenfelser, "The conservative base of the Republican Party is so strong at this moment, the most divisive thing that could happen would be to leave out the family values third of the issue base." Her group has undertaken its own small media blitz, "Life Speaking Out," to lobby the House GOP on abortion issues and prevent the omission.
 Even leaving aside the prospect of featuring pro-life rhetoric and policy prescriptions, this feels like screwing up a free lunch to me. Here's the thing. IMO it's substantively true that the GOP has thus far failed to outline many positive policy prescriptions, aside from chanting "jobs, jobs, jobs."  [duh, btw] Mostly they've focused on negative painting of  Obama as, well, a socialist muslim antichrist.

 But sitting pretty as they are, why answer that criticism if it'll cost votes? Nationally, they need to stick to the real short list of things everyone agrees on: more jobs sooner, and goring someone else's ox. 

 What I expect to see is that most of the trial balloons cause dissent. IFf they are wise, GOP party leaders will decide to keep the national party mouth mostly shut. Let individual candidates look as independent as possible. Let candidates tailor their own platforms to local constituencies. Don't burden them with national platform components that could drag them under in a close race.

Are party leaders ever that wise? I kinda doubt it. As an independent I have no real dog in the hunt. But it would be pretty entertaining if the national party puts some brakes on what looks to be a substantial swing to the right.

Open Thread

Even though I have jacksquat for traffic, I'm cracking open a Tuesday open thread, just for sh!ts and giggles. Maybe if I drop a few invites elsewhere, someone will drive by.

What's on your mind?

A couple things are on my mind, and I hope to have posts later this week. One topic is the currently circulating theme that questions the worth of a college education in the face of the mushrooming cost burden. I'd like to hear what folks think about that. Especially if they've got something more than a yes or no answer to "is it worth it?"

I'd also like to do something on education reform in general, both in public schools and college.

And as always, chat about music, beer, movies, and so on is always welcome. How was your Labor Day weekend?