Comments Posted By Kenneth Almquist
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michael reynolds (@13):

What did any of you think the GOP was about? Small government and low taxes?

Sorry, Mike, but you've gone off the rails with those last two words. When Republicans were last in power, they revealed themselves to be big government / low taxes types. The low tax half of this equation shouldn't be controversial because Republicans don't lie about it; they proudly proclaim it.

It’s about scared, stupid, insecure people on the wrong end of economic and demographic trends expressing that fear in a pathological hatred of the first black president.

I think that the Republican reaction to Bill Clinton's presidency indicates that their pathological hatred is driven by something other than racism. Sure, I would expect that white racists are almost universally Republicans at this point, but for the rest of the party Obama's race is beside the point.

In any case, you are mixing two issues here: How do the Republicans plan to regain power, and what will they do if they get it. With regard to the latter question, past experience indicates that they will increase spending and cut taxes.

Comment Posted By Kenneth Almquist On 6.02.2010 @ 18:39


As Michael Renolds points out, the CMS report discusses the House version of the bill. Moran misrepresents the report in other ways as well.

Moran: "[CMS says] that premiums will go up drastically [under the bill.]"

I read the report and couldn't find any such claim.

Moran: "the bill won’t do anything to reduce the cost of health care."

The report states, "For fiscal years 2010 through 2019, we estimate a relatively small reduction in non-Medicare Federal health care expenditures of $2.1 billion, all of which is associated with the comparative effectiveness research provision." There are a variety of ideas about how to reduce the rate at which health care costs are growing, but the only way to know which ones will work is to try them and see. That's what the bill does.

Moran: "the quality of care will go down."

The only discussion of quality of care I spotted in the report is a brief mention in the section on costs: "There is no consensus...that prevention and wellness efforts result in lower costs. Several prominent studies conclude that such provisions--while improving the quality of individuals' lives in important ways--generally increase costs overall."

Moran: "As far as coverage, that same CMS report figures a net increase of 3 million Americans who will be insured."

To the contrary, the report states, "By calendar year 2019, the individual mandate, Medicaid expansion, and other provisions are estimated to reduce the number of uninsured from 57 million under current law to 23 million under H.R. 3962." That's a net increase of 34 million people.

Comment Posted By Kenneth Almquist On 27.12.2009 @ 00:09


"we just spent 8 years being told that it was the rights uncritical patriotism - love of country - that got the United States into so much trouble and fostered the notion that it was the left that actually hates America. Are we to take seriously the idea that all of a sudden, the right hates America because Obama was elected?"

Huh? I honestly can't remember a single instance from the past eight years where someone on the political left asserted that people on the right are patriotic.

The idea that the right hates America is a strawman; the suggestion is that people on the right hate Obama more than they love their country. Nor is the suggestion that this is something "sudden;" rather the suggestion is that many people on the right weren't patriotic even before Obama was elected.

Comment Posted By Kenneth Almquist On 4.10.2009 @ 03:22


It's easy to call Rove's failure to create his permanent Republican majority "predictable" in hindsight, but I don't think it was so obvious in prospect.

I'm thinking here of the career of Yassar Arafat. Back in the 1970's, Sadat invited Israel and the Palestinians to a peace conference, which eventually led to the signing of the Camp David accords. Egypt got the Sinai Peninsula, Israel got a peace treaty with its most powerful neighbor, and the Palestinians got practically nothing. The reason Arafat was such an ineffective negotiator is rather obvious--he never showed up at the negotiations. But that self-imposed failure didn't hurt him politically the way that making a more serious attempt and still failing would have; he remained in power until his death. So that is one example of gaining a permanent majority based on the prescription: don't try to do a good job at running the country; just get good at managing your failures.

Just because that strategy worked for Arafat doesn't mean it would work in the United States. But before Bush and Rove, had anyone really tried?

Comment Posted By Kenneth Almquist On 15.09.2009 @ 23:17


Thanks for the pointer, Chuck. I hadn't heard of Johathan Haidt before, and he's very much worth listening to.

For anyone else who's interested, Johathan Haidt's talk is available on YouTube as well as on

Comment Posted By Kenneth Almquist On 18.04.2009 @ 12:51

Begala was expressing love of government. Didn't you read is piece? Did you read mine? Or did you just make shit up?

Yes, I read Begala's piece, and Matt Stoller's, and yours. In the case of your article, I don't claim to understand every sentence, but I think I got the gist right. On rereading, the scatological image with which you open your article still seems intended to belittle the emotions expressed by Stoller and Begala, suggesting that such emotions were infantile. The rest of your article appears to be an elaboration on that theme. And, given that Stoller and Begala were writing about patriotism, that means you were objecting to their expressions of patriotism.

Now, it appears that (at least in the case of Begala), you don't grant that last point. I partially addressed this in my previous comment. Begala labels his piece "Happy Patriots Day." If you concede that patriotism is love of country rahter than love of government, your assertion that Begala was expressing love of country is at best problematical. I suppose you could argue that Begala is expressing love of country in the parts of the article where he uses the word "patriotism" but shifts to expressing love of government in other parts of the piece. Or you could reject my definition of patriotism. But you haven't done either.

That said, I think that in talking about the definition of patriotism I skipped over the more fundamental issues. Stoller doesn't use the word "patriotism" in the paragraph you quoted in your article, but I didn't have to click on the link and read the full article to know what Stoller was talking about. To understand language, you need to know more than the definitions of the words. You also need to know the shared assumptions, the things that aren't normally said because they are taken for granted. In this case, the assumption is that people normally love their country, not their government.

Shared assumptions of this sort don't control what can be said. If Begala wanted to indicate that he loved his government rather than his country, he could have written, "I love my government, not my country." What they do control is what can be left unsaid. Begala doesn't have to explicitly state that he loves his country rather than his government because that is the default assumption.

I believe that this shared assumption is correct. Given Begala's background in politics, I think there is a distinct possibility that he was not telling the truth about his feelings. I wouldn't rule out the possibility that he doesn't feel anything at all akin to patriotism. But I don't find it plausible that he feels love for his government rather than love for his country. If you find your interpretation of what Begala is saying plausible, that suggests that our disagreement is not only about language, but about how people generally experience patriotism.

It would make sense for you to disagree with me on this point if your personal experience were different from mine. If it were the case that you loved your government rather than your country, then it would seem plausible to you that Begala feels more or less the same way. But I don't believe for a moment that you feel that way any more that I believe Begala feels that way. Normally, when I'm arguing with someone, I don't assume that the other person's eperience of their own feelings supports my position. It would seem safer to assume that your personal experience supports your position rather than my position. But in this case, I think you are flat out wrong about the psychology of patriotism, as well as the language.

Comment Posted By Kenneth Almquist On 16.04.2009 @ 21:48

If you find expressions of patriotism nausiating, it might help to remember that patriotism isn't love of the government; it is love of one's country.

Begala was expressing love of government. Didn't you read is piece? Did you read mine? Or did you just make shit up?


Comment Posted By Kenneth Almquist On 15.04.2009 @ 23:20


"[Obama] will now raise taxes on everybody because he plans to roll back the Bush tax cuts when they expire at the end of 2010."

Assuming I've captured Moran's intended meaning with this edited quote, this is bizarre because the basic message of the article that Moran links to is that Obama is sticking to the tax plan he proposed during the campaign. Perhaps Moran was thinking of the following sentence from the article:

"Obama plans to raise taxes on the wealthy by asking the Democratic-controlled Congress to allow President Bush's tax cuts to expire at the end of 2010."

The writer could have written "President Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy," but in context there is no real ambiguity about which tax cuts the writer is referring to. Simply logic tells us that letting tax cuts for the non-wealthy expire would raise taxes on the non-wealthy, not on the wealthy. And the writer is explaining a plan which has been explained numerous times before, so there is no need to rely on this particular explaination if one finds it unclear.

The other two cases where Moran alleges that Obama is breaking campaign promises (Obama's abandoning his plan for dealing with high oil prices after oil prices fell, and his appointment of people that Moran doesn't think represent sufficient "change") are at least arguable. But supporting the claim that Obama is breaking a campaign promise by linking to an article which reaffirms that Obama plans to keep that promise suggests a certain amount of desparation.

In fact, Obama will not raise taxes on the wealthy - at least until 2011. That is a broken promise. And the fact that he is going to do so in connection with allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire means that everybody gets their taxes raised - not just the wealthy - which is something Obama said time and again on the campaign trail wouldn't happen.


Comment Posted By Kenneth Almquist On 12.12.2008 @ 13:52


"After the 2004 election, Congressional Republicans went off the rails and started spending money liken drunken sailors on shore leave..."

You seriously suggesting they weren't doing that before the 2004 election? Here are the inflation-adjusted increases in total federal spending, per year, starting with fiscal 2001: 1.25%, 5.97%, 4.61%, 3.16%, 3.99%, 3.89%, 0.62%.

The 1.25% increase for fiscal 2001 (ending Sept. 30, 2001), is the last Clinton budget. The next three numbers are for the three fiscal years before the 2004 election, and the 3.99% increase is for the fiscal 2005 budget, which Congress passed before the 2004 election. The last two percentage increases, representing the budgets passed by Congress after the 2004 election, don't suggest that Congressional Republicans suddenly went off the rails. (Also, Congressional Republican bear only partial responsibility for the run up in spending during the Bush years; Bush requested the spending and the Congressional Republicans agreed.)

Comment Posted By Kenneth Almquist On 22.11.2008 @ 05:23


"We as Republicans have strayed from our fiscally-responsible roots."

That's a bit of an understatement. Under Clinton, total government spending grew at a rate of 1.5% per year after inflation. Under Carter, 2%. Under Bush's first term, the growth was 4.6% per year. If Gore had become president instead of Bush, we wouldn't have seen that sort of growth in spending. Gore had no intention of spending as much money as Bush did. Furthermore, he couldn't have spent that much money even if he wanted to because (as we saw during the Clinton years) Republicans would block spending by a Democratic president.

As for your complaint that Republicans don't get credit for all this spending, there's a reason that they don't get credit from the general public: Republicans campaign against big government rather than defending it. For example, in 2004 Bush said, "To create jobs, my plan will encourage investment and expansion by restraining federal spending..." (By "restraining federal spending," Bush meant increasing it by 4.3% in the coming fiscal year.) It's hard to convince the general public of the merits of a policy at the same time you are pretending that it isn't your policy at all.

On the other hand, if you run a company that contracts with the federal government, you don't worry about what the President says. You look at the amount of money that you are getting from the federal government, and if that increases, you presumably express your gratitude by donating to and voting for Republicans.

Comment Posted By Kenneth Almquist On 6.10.2008 @ 13:23

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