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February 15, 2008

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Oooh. You're making my wonky heart go all aflutter. I'll have to take some time to pore over these in detail, but thanks very much for providing this.

Someone's been busy :-)

Seriously though, thanks very much for doing this. It is a very interesting read.

well if obama doesnt get the nod, i hope the dems wont run into a brick wall

very useful, but we should be wary of co-sponsorship alone. For one, it's a common tactic to give the appearance of doing something without actually doing anything. For instance, when I was on the Hill, i did a lot of letter answering. People would write in about something and we'd try to stick some reference to a bill that the congress-person had co-sponsored.

Less cynically, it's just not always a good proxy for whether they're willing to work for something.

And in the worst case scenario, it can be misleading if they refuse to take certain action on the grounds that they've co-sponsored a bill that everyone knows won't be law.

Wow that’s a lot of effort hilzoy. Thanks for this.

publius: yes, I am pretty wary of that, which is why I excluded all the bills that the candidates weren't cosponsors on from the get-go. I'm pretty sure this includes a lot of stuff that the candidates did not personally work on.

On the other hand, not including cosponsored bills has its own problems -- see, for instance, the list of ethics amendments Obama co-sponsored in the 110th, which he worked a lot on. The main bill was sponsored by Harry Reid, and while that might be because he actually wrote it, it might also be because he's the Majority Leader, and having him as sponsor gives it clout. What I'm sure of is that Obama was heavily involved in creating those bills, and so not including them seemed to run into problems of its own.

Oh, one more thing: one reason why I specifically excluded bills and amendments that didn't actually become law is that I wanted to test effectiveness, but another was precisely to exclude bills and amendments that people wrote or co-sponsored knowing that they wouldn't become law.

Hilzoy - that's lots of work, thanks much.

Just glancing at the list seems to verify my previous impressions about substantive work. Obama is involved in lobbyist reform and the Obama-Coburn sunshine amendment. Both are involved auditing the Iraq war and restricting Mexican truck drivers. Clinton isn't working on anything bold or substantive that Obama isn't in on too. Anybody care to disagree with me?

Kudos to Obama for supporting lobbying amendments (giving him the benefit of the doubt that he would support extending the provisions to the Presidency). Kudos also for being supporting government openness and protecting American truck drivers from Mexican truck drivers.

But really, we have $70 trillion in unfunded entitlement liabilities, growing by $3 trillion per year, and the rest of Obama’s list boils down to this (Clinton’s is similar):

110th Congress: Bills Co-sponsored by Obama:
S.761: Spend more money to improve ‘competitiveness’ (fund more government workers).
S.962: Spend more feel-good money to ‘capture’ Carbon Dioxide emissions (the energy, and resulting CO2 emission, necessary to do this doubles emissions; beer companies (with smart private sector people) have tried and failed to do this for decades with the CO2 given off from fermentation; and they still buy their CO2 in bottles)

110th Congress: Amendments Co-sponsored by Obama:
S.AMDT.529 to S.CON.RES.21: Spend more money on policemen.
S.AMDT.1169 to S.1348: ?
S.AMDT.2132 to H.R.1585: Spend more money on hospitals.
S.AMDT.2268 to H.R.1585: Spend more money on hospitals.
S.AMDT.2509 to H.R.2638: Spend more money on FEMA trailers.
* S.AMDT.2719 to H.R.2764: ???? But looks to me like a sell out to foreign NGOs (likely since Boxer initiated it).
S.AMDT.2872 to H.R.1585: Allow Iraqis to move to the US and get on the social safety net.
S.AMDT.2893 to H.R.1585: Spend more money on the National Guard.
S.AMDT.2962 to H.R.1585: Spend more money on hospitals
S.AMDT.2969 to H.R.1585: Spend more money on hospitals

Don’t get me started on his pledge to end poverty around the world.

Moody’s has warned the government that they will down-grade our credit rating unless the entitlement ‘crisis’ (it really is) is addressed. Instead of addressing the big issues, Congress makes things worse. Do our leaders think about what happens when we can’t borrow money any more? What will happen in America’s pockets of dependence?

I’ve got another prediction, and it isn’t pretty.

Bill: Here's the text of SA 2179:

"On page 410, between lines 15 and 16, insert the following:
REMOVAL OF CERTAIN RESTRICTIVE ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS APPLICABLE TO FOREIGN NONGOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS
Sec. 699B. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, regulation, or policy, in determining eligibility for assistance authorized under part I of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2151 et seq.), foreign nongovernmental organizations shall not be ineligible for such assistance solely on the basis of health or medical services, including counseling and referral services, provided by such organizations with non-United States Government funds if such services do not violate the laws of the country in which they are being provided and would not violate United States Federal law if provided in the United States, and shall not be subject to requirements relating to the use of non-United States Government funds for advocacy and lobbying activities other than those that apply to United States nongovernmental organizations receiving assistance under part I of such Act."

I believe it's what's called "lifting the global gag rule": preventing the Bush administration from refusing to give funds to groups that provide abortions with non-US government funds (e.g., family planning groups, etc.)

Both Clinton and Obama were original co-sponsors.

About Clinton and substance: I quite like S 418 from the 109th, which protects military people from unscrupulous insurance salespeople, lenders, etc.

And for Bill: it's lucky that both Clinton and Obama support repealing the Bush tax cuts, isn't it.

Thanks Hilzoy;

I’ve read the text several times, and am still a little confused. Since I trust Senator Boxer and her husband about as far as I could throw them, and the text seems to involve giving tax money to foreign organizations, I’ll remain skeptical.

I think we can both agree that the energy put into H.R. 2764 is not addressing the civilizational issues that the Country is facing.

Actually, lifting the global gag rule was pretty important. The gag rule meant that if, say, we were giving money to stop HIV, we couldn't give it to any group that (with independent funds) provided abortions. A lot of good family planning groups did, and our rule meant that we didn't get to spend HIV prevention money in the most effective possible way. In some cases, it led to those groups needlessly dividing themselves into separate organizations, etc.

The bill in question doesn't appropriate any new money; it just says that the money that has been appropriated can be spent on groups that also provide abortions. And I actually think that doing HIV prevention right is fairly important.

Bill, I am really interested about the civilizational issues the country is facing. Care to elaborate, and please don't do the Muslim thing again.

Oh, and, if you want to go in that direction, the bill you are specifically referencing is actually very pertinent to that.

To echo the other comments; Hilzoy’s summaries have been some of the most informative stuff in a while. Thank you.

To answer John Miller, nobody is addressing the fact that we’re broke. Bush didn’t and neither will Obama or McCain. See the summary above. You can’t keep writing checks when you are broke. Everything else is window dressing.

The parallels between America/Russia-2008 and USSR/America-1980s are interesting:

In 1985, the wheels were coming off of the Soviet economy and they were squandering resources and national will in the Middle East. The American economy was strong and we outspent the Soviets literally into the dirt. The Ruble collapsed, nobody saved it, and that was the end of the Soviets. Recovered Russia is now run by an efficient dictator.

In 2008, the wheels are coming off of the American economy and we are squandering resources and national will in the Middle East. The Russian economy is strong and they are warning of a new arms race, one which we will not be able to afford. A combination of greed at the top and dependence at the bottom is the process of collapsing the dollar.

Putin surely recognizes this and is looking for payback for what we did to his Country in Afghanistan.

Back to civilizational issues, the Soviet population in the 1980s didn’t expect much from their government. The American population in 2008 does; our Seniors get $27,000 each in government benefits. Entire urban populations are dependent on the government for their basic needs.

President Bush doesn’t get too many things right, but he or his speechwriter got it right when he stated that unless we address the entitlement crisis, the social safety net’s collapse will be ‘sudden’ and ‘massive’. Since our form of government seems to be unable to reign in spending, I think that that is what we have to look forward to.

Plato’s opinion was that democratic governments were the second worst form of government, because they lead to dictatorships, which were the worst form of government. When the checks stop showing up for the dependent, it is very likely that we will see the emergence of a strong executive. Franklin warned us.

Darker thoughts, after a few beers.

Russia has been holding state-sponsored ethnic procreation parties, with rallies during the day and sleeping accommodations at night.

Modern medicine allows for the implantation of high IQ embryos into low IQ wombs. A low-caste womb goes for $5,000 / 9 months in India today. Things would get cheaper in the event of a global depression.

"In 1985, the wheels were coming off of the Soviet economy and they were squandering resources and national will in the Middle East."

I'll bite: where in the Middle East, exactly? (Please don't say Afghanistan is in the Middle East, since it no more is than Australia is.)

"President Bush doesn’t get too many things right, but he or his speechwriter got it right when he stated that unless we address the entitlement crisis, the social safety net’s collapse will be ‘sudden’ and ‘massive.’"

Perhaps you'd care to link to a paper from a credible economist on this?

Be sure to find one who specifically says that "the social safety net’s collapse will be ‘sudden’ and ‘massive.’"

That's actually using the words "sudden" and "massive," since you put those words in quotes.

But if you can't, for a booby prize, perhaps you can find one that's a reasonable paraphrase. A paper, mind, not a two-sentence quote in a magazine article, or the equivalent.

Gary;

My intent was Afghanistan. And if that is not in the Middle East, I claim ignorance.

Bush’s words were during his attempt to ‘privatize’ some small percent of Social Security (another bunch of BS because Social Security in its entirety pales in comparison to our medical and other obligations). I cannot provide a link for you tonight, but the words stuck in my mind, for whatever that’s worth.

But I do know that you can’t continue to write bad checks over time. Here’s a link from a smart guy who worries about our future, his $161k per head figure does not include future promises. His work is endorsed by Milton Friedman.

http://mwhodges.home.att.net/nat-debt/debt-nat-a.htm

Good night.

"My intent was Afghanistan. And if that is not in the Middle East, I claim ignorance."

Okay. You might look at a map, though, and distances. Afghanistan is in Asia. It's the furthest east Alexander the Great got. Paris, France is only about 100 miles further from Amman (2094 miles), Jordan than Kabul is (1923 miles). But we don't consider Paris to be in the Middle East, either.

"Bush’s words were during his attempt to ‘privatize’ some small percent of Social Security (another bunch of BS because Social Security in its entirety pales in comparison to our medical and other obligations). I cannot provide a link for you tonight, but the words stuck in my mind, for whatever that’s worth."

Since I'm unaware that Bush is a qualified professional "credible economist," that would be nonresponsive, and I also think you would not find searching for a paper he's written that's been published in a credible economics journal to be a profitable use of time.

Which part of this was it that you found difficult to understand?

Perhaps you'd care to link to a paper from a credible economist on this?

Be sure to find one who specifically says that "the social safety net’s collapse will be ‘sudden’ and ‘massive.’"

That's actually using the words "sudden" and "massive," since you put those words in quotes.

But if you can't, for a booby prize, perhaps you can find one that's a reasonable paraphrase. A paper, mind, not a two-sentence quote in a magazine article, or the equivalent.

"But I do know that you can’t continue to write bad checks over time."

Analogies from individual humans to countries don't work very well, and they particularly don't work when discussing economics. People don't possess a federal reserve, their own currency, and so on.

Thus my interest in a cite to an actual economist to support your claims. Presumably, if what you say is true, one won't be difficult to find.

If you can't find one, whatever opinions you have aren't credible or interesting.

Either your opinions on economics are supported by mainstream economists, or they aren't. If they are, produce some. If they aren't, why should anyone care about your unsupportable opinions on economics?

But presumably you wouldn't opine without knowing what you're talking about, so producing a few quick cites to a couple of economics papers should be no problem.

I assume you've made some study of economics: who are a few of your favorite economists?

Gary;

1. I like you.
2. Bush is a pathological idiot (giving him the benefit of the doubt).
3. Nobody knows how much people cost until they run a business.
4. Milton Friedman was smart.

Gary: But we don't consider Paris to be in the Middle East, either.

Well, these days I do…

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