Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Ezra Klein looks at Obama Derangement Syndrome:
It isn't so much paranoia about President Obama's policies as it is paranoia about the man himself — that he is, in some fundamental way, different, foreign, untrustworthy, even traitorous. What's odd is that it is attached to a president whose presidency has been, in almost every respect, conventionally liberal.
Obama's presidency is in many ways ordinary, but the feelings it evokes are not. There is something about seeing Obama in the White House that deeply unsettles his critics. Obama Derangement Syndrome rationalizes those feelings.
If it's really true that Obama doesn't love this country, if it's really true that his birth was a conspiracy and his ideology is baroque, foreign, and hateful, then the discomfort some Americans feel when they look at Obama is justified — it's a kind of patriotic spidey-sense. The alternative explanation — the one that looks at why Obama makes some Americans so much more uncomfortable than, say, Joe Biden — requires a much harder conversation.
And commenter Claudius on Brad DeLong's site makes the obvious comparison between criticisms of GW and criticisms of Obama, and why the latter have to be invented:

I think that in a way, this President is unusually scandal free. He really is a rather remarkable individual and politician, and going from Columbia and leaving behind a more traditional role in business and consulting, became an organizer in poor, rough neighborhoods of Chicago, then the Chicago school of law and a civil rights firm. And what he did growing up, he fully confessed in his first book.
For someone coming out of Chicago politics, they have nothing to hang on him.
I don't think the Clintons were guilty of any of the petty scandals created on the right, but there was more fertile ground to till; there actually were associates who went to jail, and an early cabinet member that committed suicide. They still made things up about the Clintons, but didn't have to stretch as far. For Obama, because he is either clean or already confessed his sins, and has such an idyllic family life, they have to make up so much ridiculousness.
I didn't like W, but it was because he wasn't paying attention before 9-11, allowed torture, blundered the US into war in Iraq and then mismanaged the occupation, and otherwise neglected America in service of the rich and corporate interests. He didn't need any strange background - it was enough that he was a poor leader, poorly advised, making poor decisions, and intellectually incurious. I was perfectly comfortable judging him on what he did as president, and without hyperbole. Obama's critics have no such easy ammunition.

Pushing Ahead

Our pretty good president is doing more to help ordinary people.
This of course raises the question of what it is that brokers who serve the middle class — people at mass market brokerages who pick up the phone when you dial the number on your company's 401(k) site — are doing to make money. The answer is that they are earning a living marketing financial products that are profitable to their employer and disguising the marketing as advice.
Obama is proposing to force people who purport to be advising on investment strategy to actually give good advice and reveal conflicts of interest. That the bank lobby claims this will put their advisors out of business is a damning indictment of the way they've been running their industry. More formal studies show the same thing, that investment advisors reenforce their clients' worst instincts, "encourage returns-chasing behavior, and push for actively managed funds that have higher fees, even if the client starts with a well-diversified, low-fee portfolio."
Details of proposed rules here. 

Update:  Ben Walsh weighs in.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

More Press Failure

So the Republicans think that vaccinating children should be an option, not a requirement for living in a modern society.

For example, here's Wisconsin state representative Sean Duffy:
"...I do think we want to make sure we continue to let parents make these decisions for their kids. I think it's a slippery slope when we let the state get so involved with our children."
So presumably he's also against mandatory child seats and seat belts for kids in cars, not to mention mandatory bicycle helmets for young children while bicycling, and mandatory life jackets for young children out on the water in boats?

Needless to say, the feckless interviewer didn't follow up with these obvious examples of the state ensuring protections for children, asking for Mr. Duffy's opinion of those requirements. 

Toilet Training

So Senator Tillis believes that it is government overreach to require that restaurant workers wash their hands after using the toilet.
‘I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy as long as they post a sign that says “We don’t require our employees to wash their hands after leaving the restroom,” Tillis said.
"..as long as they post a sign..."  Hmmm.  Would that be a legal requirement?  And if so, wouldn't that be another of those pesky regulations?  And supposing Starbucks wanted to opt out of that rule....