P.L.A. - A Journal of Politics, Law and Autism

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Thursday, October 24, 2002
Just for the Record Part II

In 1961, under the last Eisenhower budget, there were 782,000 executive branch, non-defense employees in the Federal Government. By the end of 2001 that number had risen to 1,151,000 employees. That is an increase of 369,000 employees or a 47% increase over the 40 year period.

We decided to determine in which presidential terms that increase occurred. In order to do so, we looked at the years 1962 through 2001. We assigned credit or blame to an administration for the years for which it submitted a budget. Thus, for our purposes, the Kennedy term runs from 1962-1965. The Johnson term runs from 1966-1969 etc. We got our data here at table 17-1.

Kennedy 1962-1965
The last Eisenhower budget had 782,000 non-defense employees. By the end of the Kennedy term that number had risen to 857,000. The Kennedy administration is assigned responsibility for the addition of 75,000 government employees.

Johnson 1966-1969
The Johnson years saw the number of government employees rise to 960,000. His administration is assigned responsibility for the addition of 103,000 employees.

Nixon (which include the Ford years) 1970-1977
The Nixon years saw non-defense government employees rise from 960,000 in Johnson’s last year to 1,173,000 in 1977. Nixon (and Ford) have responsibility for an increase of 213,000 employees.

Carter 1978-1981
During the Carter years, the number of non-defense federal employees dropped by 14,000.

Reagan 1982-1989
In the Reagan years, the federal workforce increased by 3,000 employees.

Bush 1990-1993
Under George Herbert Walker Bush, the number of non-defense government employees increased from 1,162,000 to 1,256,000 for a gain of 94,000 employees.

Clinton 1993-2001
During the Clinton years the number of non-defense government employees fell from 1,256,000 to 1,151,000 for a decrease of 105,000 employees.

Under the 20 years of Republican administrations the number of non-defense government employees rose by 310,000.

Under the 20 years of Democratic administrations, the number of non-defense government employees rose by 59,000.

Of the 369,000 employees added between 1962 and 2001, 84% were added under Republican administrations and 16% were added under Democratic administrations.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002
To Tell the Truth

Dana Milbank in a recent Washington Post article noted that Mr. Bush has a penchant for, shall we say, taking liberties with the truth. Mr. Milbank noted that Mr. Bush had recently made a number of statements that were “dubious.” Mr. Bush is engaged in a pattern of “distortions and exaggerations.” In particular, Milbank notes the following:

1) The President told the nation that Iraq has a growing fleet of unmanned aircraft that could be used “for missions targeting the United States.” In fact, none of those aircraft have the range to reach the U.S.

2) Mr. Bush cited a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency as saying that Iraq was “six months away from developing a (nuclear) weapon." The IAEA never issued such a report.

3) Mr. Bush recently suggested that union intransigence was preventing custom inspectors from wearing radiation detectors (in an effort to keep nuclear material out of the U.S.). The union had agreed to wear such devices months ago.

4) Mr. Bush says on the campaign trail that the terrorism insurance legislation he favors would create “over 300,000 jobs.” Slate’s Daniel Gross has studied the matter and finds Mr. Bush’s statement to be baseless.

5) The President suggested a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq in the form of a high-ranking Al Qaeda member getting medical treatment in Baghdad earlier this year. Intelligence officials later acknowledged they had no “hard evidence” that Iraq’s government knew the Al Qaeda member was there.

6) Mr. Bush implied that an Iraqi defector had provided information concerning the state of Iraq’s WMD program as of 1998. The defector had no information concerning the state of that program since his retirement in 1991.

7) Mr. Bush suggests on the stump that his 2001 tax cuts were limited to nine years as a result of a “quirk in the rules in the United States Senate.” In truth, the tax cut was limited to nine years by Mr. Bush and the Republicans in an effort to keep the cost of the bill to $1.35 trillion and to disguise the long-term fiscal consequences of the cut.

8) Mr. Bush brags he enacted “the biggest increase in education spending in a long, long time." In fact, the 15% increase authorized in Mr. Bush’s education bill is the largest since the year before when Mr. Clinton’s budget increased education spending by 18.5%.

Mr. Milbank’s list of exaggerations, distortions and lies is not even close to exhaustive. The administration has also told the following whoppers:

9) Mr. Bush has often told the “trifecta” story. In the story he claims that during the campaign he said that he would not run a deficit except in the case of war, national emergency or recession. Mr. Bush then grins and says, “Never did I dream we'd get the trifecta." Mr. Bush never made any such statement during the campaign. His assertion that he did is simply false. After the press pointed out to the White House that Mr. Bush was not telling the truth, Mr. Bush continued to tell his “whopper.” See The New Republic.

10) Soon after the inauguration, the White House was peddling the story that Clinton staffers stole silverware, china and the Presidential Seal off Air Force One. That was simply a lie.

11) The administration has been relentless in promoting the story that Al Qaeda and Iraq were in league with regard to 9/11 based on an alleged meeting between Iraqi officials and hijacker Muhammed Atta in Prague. That story has now been shown to be a fiction by no less a source than Vaclav Havel.

12) Mr. Bush suggested that Ken Lay of Enron supported Anne Richards in the Texas Governor’s race. That was a real whopper.

13) The administration has been evasive on the issue of the percentage of benefits flowing to the top 1% of earners from the 2001 tax cut.

14) As Jeff Cooper reports:

In mid-August, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld argued that the presence of Al Qaeda personnel within Iraq showed Saddam Hussein's support of the group. A week later, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage acknowledged that the Al Qaeda members in question were in Kurd-controlled parts of the country, beyond Hussein's reach.

15) On April 5, 2002, Mr. Bush told British television, with regard to the Middle East, that:
Well, we've tried summits in the past, as you may remember. It wasn't all that long ago where a summit was called and nothing happened, and as a result we had significant intifada in the area.

On April 6, 2002, Mr. Bush told reporters:
Somebody told me there's a story floating around that somehow I am blaming the Clinton administration for what's going on in the Middle East right now. … I appreciate what President Clinton tried to do. He tried to bring peace to the Middle East.

16) John Ashcroft, on satellite television from Moscow told us that Jose Padilla had been arrested trying to enter the U.S. to explode a “dirty bomb.” Soon “administration officials were pointing out that Padilla had no radioactive material or any other bomb-making equipment. Nor had he chosen a target, or formulated a plan.”

17) As Spinsanity has pointed out, the Bush Office of Management and Budget has a pattern of dissembling.

18) The final whopper is from the January 6, 2000, Republican Primary debate in New Hampshire in which Candidate Bush pledged he would never use the office of the presidency "to obsfucate (sic)."

That list also is not exhaustive. We could list many more examples. That listing is sufficient to conclude that the Bush administration has engaged in a pattern of deceit, lies, exaggerations, evasions and distortions.

What are we to make of such a pattern? What standard should we apply in assessing the Bush administration’s reluctance to tell the simple truth? You may recall that in 2000, the Bush campaign, its allies and the press felt that Al Gore had a problem with the truth. Perhaps, then, it would be fair to apply to the current administration the same standards that the press and the Republicans applied to Al Gore during the campaign.

If so, we, like Dick Cheney, should be “puzzled and saddened” by this administration's inability to tell the truth.

Perhaps we should conclude that the administration is “deeply dishonest” or “delusional” as Donald Lambro of the Washington Times and Michael Medved of USA Today are quoted by Bob Somerby as saying of Al Gore.

In the words of Walter Shapiro in USA Today, we could conclude that Mr. Bush has a “character flaw” which is “deeply troubling.”

Is the Bush administration’s casual attitude towards the truth really relevant to any important issue? Jonah Goldberg of NRO assures us that it is:
No matter what perspective you come from, it seems hard to imagine how anyone can say that the character of the president is irrelevant…But all of this is such an old and flagrantly obvious argument which misses the simple, old-fashioned point. Presidents should try to tell the truth and be gentlemen.

Mr. Goldberg further reminds us that:

Americans understand that truth telling matters, I think. I hope. And I thought the press understood this, but I'm changing my mind….But lying goes to the heart of politics and turns it black. It is always relevant….

Honesty is a virtue. Thus, if we wish the definitive take on how to react to the Bush administration’s deceptions, we should look to an expert on virtue, Mr. William Bennett. Mr. Bennett in an October 11, 2002, Wall Street Journal Op-Ed wrote the following:
Nevertheless, as the Founders understood, almost nothing matters more in a chief executive than his public character and trustworthiness, his truthfulness and integrity…

[P]ersistent lies by a person in high public office are not merely "personal"; they have to do with the public interest. Public office is a public trust, and people who violate it ought to be held accountable…

[T]he American public's loss of trust in government is a vital national issue. We don't need another president to deepen further the people's cynicism.

Finally, whether you're talking about a police officer, a teacher, a doctor or a car mechanic, it matters greatly whether that person's word is good. If it matters for all these people, then it surely matters in choosing a president.

For once, we could not agree more with Mr. Bennett.

Sunday, October 20, 2002
GOP “Economic Plan”

In order to construct a plan to pull the U.S. out of its current slow growth economy and minimize the risks of deflation and a double dip recession, it is necessary to understand why the economy is in its current condition.

The recessions of the last generation were caused by an overheated demand that increased inflationary pressure. The Federal Reserve, in its capacity as the country’s guardian against inflation, would raise interest rates. The increase in interest rates would cool demand. Softening demand would yield slower economic growth or recession.

Once the economy had slowed, the Federal Reserve would loosen monetary policy (lower interest rates) and economic growth would resume.

The 2001 recession and current slow growth environment do not follow that model. As Paul Krugman has written (click on “columns” and then “My Economic Plan”):

The key point is that this isn't your father's recession — it's your grandfather's recession. That is, it isn't your standard postwar recession, engineered by the Federal Reserve to fight inflation, and easily reversed when the Fed loosens the reins. It's a classic overinvestment slump, of a kind that was normal before World War II. And such slumps have always been hard to fight simply by cutting interest rates.

Consumer spending, buoyed by low interest rates for cars and homes, has remained strong throughout the downturn. It is business investment that has been reduced. In the late 1990s, business invested huge sums in additional capacity. When the demand for such additional capacity failed to materialize, business investment collapsed. The best example of that phenomenon is the telecommunication industry. In order to get business to spend again, consumer demand must rise.

Now the consumer appears tired. The latest round of economic statistics suggests that a slowdown in consumer spending is occurring or might occur soon.

Pierre Belec, writing for Reuters has said (link courtesy of skippy):

The numbers are in. They show American consumers appear to be exhausted after single-handedly keeping the economy afloat for more than two years. Their spending may have reached a saturation point and a slowdown would be only a natural response... What typically happens is demand gets exhausted, like in a stock market bubble, and people stop buying stuff to catch up to themselves. The risk: Cutbacks on spending by consumers could knock out the only leg that has kept the economy from slipping off the table and back into recession.

The above analysis suggests that the proper remedy is to stimulate demand. The best ways to stimulate demand are to put money in the hands of people who will spend it or to have the government spend it directly.

Krugman, as usual, is right on target.

The answer is that we should have a sensible plan for fiscal stimulus — one that encourages spending now, to bridge the gap until business investment revives… First, extend unemployment benefits, which are considerably less generous now than in the last recession; this will do double duty, helping some of the neediest while putting money into the hands of people who are likely to spend it. Second, provide aid to the states, which are in increasingly desperate fiscal straits. This will also do double duty, preventing harsh cuts in public services, with medical care for the poor the most likely target, at the same time that it boosts demand. If these elements don't add up to a large enough sum … $100 billion over the next year is a good target …why not have another rebate, this time going to everyone who pays payroll taxes?

Today, the Washington Post ran a story on Republican plans in the event that they retain the House, recapture the Senate and therefore have control over all branches of the government.

The Republican plan includes a number of proposals. Those proposals are not designed to stimulate demand and provide an engine for growth. They are designed instead to stimulate Republican constituencies and campaign contributors.

The Republicans plan to make the 2001 tax cuts permanent. That will benefit wealthy Republican campaign contributors but tax cuts in 2010 do nothing to stimulate the economy in 2002 or 2003.

The insurance companies, under the Republican plan, will get tort reform. That does nothing to stimulate demand.

Big pharmaceutical companies will get government subsidies to sell prescription drugs to seniors. That does little to stimulate demand.

Social conservatives will get Federal judges they like. That does nothing to stimulate demand.

Big business will get tax cuts in the form of relaxed depreciation rules and the elimination of tax on dividends. In the short term at least, those provisions will not increase business investment as no business would increase its production capacity without the expectation of increased demand for its products.

The only real Republican economic plan is to avoid talking about the economy until after the election.

Update: If you have not already done so, go read The Rittenhouse Review post on fiscal responsibility. Then make your family read it. Then your friends. --- Ms. PLA