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April 26, 2005


Well, the list is ok (modulo the stinko gas bill), but it doesn't make my heart go pit-a-pat. Well, it would if was enacted (modulo the pandering pump bill), but this seems a bit safe and resposible (modulo - yeah, yeah).

Still, ok, a smart move - wonder if it will get any press.

Moreover, this might help to dispel the idea that the Democrats have no ideas.

We live in hope.

Hey: PAYGO makes my heart go thunk-a-thunk-a-thunk. That, of course, is because I am strange, but really, it's huge. (Consider that all the extensions of the tax cuts would actually have to be paid for if PAYGO were in place.) But also: funding for head start, and investment for kids generally, is great. Raising the minimum wage is great. Personally, I would have liked a ban on extraordinary rendition, but you can't have everything.

What's the current scientific consensus on Head Start? Last I heard it was one of those has-to-be-wildly-cost-effective but at-best-difficult-to-measure-positive-outcomes programs.

Re the list - maybe it's that I don't want to entertain fantasies while mired in despair.

I think I read recently that for every dollar spent on Head Start, we save $17 down the road. And that's just money, not the added benefits of better lives.

Rilkefan, the benefits of ensuring small children get a decent nursery-school education are proven - the problem is that the benefits for society kick in years down the line. Adults who went to a nursery school are much more likely to do better in later life than adults who didn't. Some quite startling long-term results are available from nursery-school projects in low income areas from twenty or more years ago.

The problem is, however, that this requires the government of the day to expend significant amounts of money on a project that will pay off when that government is out of office.

Tony Blair's government has been doing a certain amount of this in its classic socialism-by-stealth manner, to avoid getting slammed by the almost-exclusively right-wing tabloids: but it is a classic example of how socialism fundamentally works better than capitalism for public projects. It is to the long-term good of the country that as many children as possible get at least a year, if not two years, of nursery-school. It can't be made into a profitable business without destroying the benefit it creates. And it doesn't really work as a charity, because for maximum benefit, all the children should get this pre-school education, not just those lucky enough to live within the right distance of the right charity.

Isn't pushing forward legislation that is in the interest of their constituents (and perhaps even Americans in general) what the Democrats are SUPPOSED TO BE DOING ON A DAILY BASIS? This "plan" sounds like a lame threat telling Republicans to take their collective fingers off the nuclear button before the Democrats stop pretending to be dead. What if the bluff is called?


The tradition in the Senate and the House has been to not tender to the floor countless bills that have no chance of passing. The legislature is really run out of the committees, for better or worse (and it does have big advantages). These types of bills go to committees first and would never get out to the floor. Comity has traditionally restrained what the Democrats are now proposing to do; i.e., in the spirit of getting along, they don't introduce directly to the floor numerous bills that have no chance of passing.

Maybe they should be doing this anyway; I like the idea of forcing the Republicans to expose their reactionary right selves. But over the long run, it just slows things down while increasing partisanship.

""But over the long run, it just slows things down while increasing partisanship."

Right--which is why neither party does it when the political process is working as intended. But when one party's leadership repeatedly threatens to derail the normal process by going "nuclear" (to use Trent Lott's phrase), then this response is justified.

In the long run, our best hope of getting back to a functioning multi-party democracy, instead of a one-party dictatorship, is for the minority party to realize that these are not normal times.

Reid's da man! :)

I bet they can force a debate for a limited amount of time but after that time it ends automatically--if this were enough to force a vote or a filibuster of every bill we'd be idiots not to have used it before, and Reid and Durbin are not idiots. (nor was Daschle--totally ineffective, but not an idiot.)

Even so. Good plan, good bills. Naturally I wish they'd be bolder on anti-torture stuff & environmental stuff--CAFE standards or a carbon tax? I can dream. I'll have to bug Durbin about it when I move to Illinois.

It's amazing how much more bearable it all is when you feel like someone is actually representing you out there.

It's amazing how much more bearable it all is when you feel like someone is actually representing you out there.


"Some quite startling long-term results are available from nursery-school projects in low income areas from twenty or more years ago."

Had heard that recent studies indicated little effect - that the good outcome was the old conventional wisdom; then more recent research had found only a weak effect in the medium-term, which had become the default scientific position, though the state of research was not considered good; then there was a recent study finding some long-term benefits in a relatively small population.

Will poke around some - Wikipedia's page sucks.

It's amazing how much more bearable it all is when you feel like someone is actually representing you out there.

So true! I had my doubts about Reid and I was wrong. He has established something I thought long dead for the Dems on the Hill -- party discipline. The rapid response office he's set up has been great, the ideas are relatively creative, and he's using the usual voices while bringing some new ones to the fore.

rilkefan: no time to do this right, but here's one place to start:

"A remarkable convergence of results from several longitudinal studies indicates that investments in high-quality intervention for low-income children yield stunning rates of return. The longest term and most extensively analyzed data come from the Perry Preschool Project in Ypsilanti, Michigan, which provided a combination of center-based and home-visiting services to a high-risk group of children beginning at age 3 years, then followed both the program participants and control group through age 40. Over this extended period, the total benefit-cost ratio was calculated to be 17 to 1.

Of the $17 return for every dollar spent for Perry Preschool, $4 was realized by the program participants and $13 was returned to the public. The personal benefits were related largely to higher earned income. The public benefits included higher tax revenues and lower costs for special education, welfare support, and incarceration, with the latter accounting for the highest proportion of return.

University of Chicago economist and Nobel laureate James Heckman completed extensive analyses of data from multiple studies and concluded that “enriched pre-kindergarten programs available to disadvantaged children … are likely to generate substantial savings to society and to promote higher economic growth by improving the skills of the workforce.”"

I think this will get coverage because it is part of an on-going story that has already started. Nancy Pelosi's proposal was ignored because it didn't fit into any current story line.
I really admire Reid. I would like to see this get played out. My disappointment is that there isn't much on the environment included on the list.

Although there are important differences between the Perry pre-school and the Head Start program as an aggregate, that's a fantastic longituidinal study. (Full disclosure: I know the people who crunched the numbers this time around) If you include the benefits to the people as well as to society in general, it's more like $22 on the dollar or more. In general, we are nowhere near diminishing returns on a lot of preventative social or health programs, and it just costs us more in the long run to not act. Not even "us" as a collectivist concept, but you and me, right in the pocketbook.


I agree and love this idea. I just hate to see it characterized as "why aren't Dems always doing this" if its such a good idea right now. There are very good reasons why this should not be the standard way of doing business, but its a great response to the current environment.

As for what's on the list, I would not worry about it too much (except for the goofy gas thing, although I understand it to be limited to ceasing purchases into the reserve rather than selling from the reserve, as has been proposed in the past. Don't know how much that decrease in demand will make a price difference -- I imagine not much). What's on the list is intended to be those items that will place best in commercials and in the 2006 races. Simple hot button items fill that bill.

So, the Republicans threaten to blow up the fillibuster (a process whereby Congresscritters skip doing their job evaluating and making decisions). The Democrats respond by threatening to blow off 'comity' (a process whereby Congresscritters skip doing their job evaluating and making decisions).

Oh please, please don't throw me in that briar patch.

Only a couple of those bills get the hairy eyeball from me, but even if I hated them all (and the same goes for the judges), put 'em to a vote for crying out loud. Enough of this delicate little two-stepping (I'd call it fancy dancing, but I happen to like fancy dancing). Time for A Taste of Armageddon.

I'm glad to see that study. My husband & I have been "investing" in good preschools for the kids, so it's nice to see that it will probably pay off for them.
(It's so hard to judge this individually -- even when they do do well - as the older one seems to be right now -- how much impact did the preschool really have, etc).
Anyway, money well spent.

"As a matter of comity, the Minority in the Senate traditionally defer to the Majority in the setting of the agenda."

This is more important than it looks. As I understand it, any Senator can take the floor and can control it forever, or until a quorum suspends debate. "Deference to the majority" is a big deal. When bills come, how long debate will be, etc are all matters of courtesy and convenience.

It could mean that the Republicans could never "yield the floor" to a Democrat, for the Democrat would change the debate from Judge X to daycare, only yield to other Democrats, until a quorum hit the floor etc. Ugly.

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