A more frequent publishing of Rich Galen's take on politics, culture and general modern annoyances. This is in addition to MULLINGS which is published Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays at

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


From Los Gatos, California

  • From the San Jose Mercury News:
    A 5.6 magnitude earthquake centered near Alum Rock in San Jose struck at 8:04 tonight.

  • Well, guess who was sitting at dinner at 8:04 pm and felt, as the song goes, "the earth move under my feet?"

  • Me. That's who.

  • When you hear, read, or see a news story about an earthquake you think about Japanese people jumping under tables while tins of shark fin soup come tumbling off the shelves in the background.

  • I am not that experienced in dealing with earthquakes. Or shark fin soup.

  • Everyone who grew up on Long Island and has been through an earthquake, raise hands.

  • No one? What a surprise! Wanna know why? It's because we don't have earthquakes on Long Island.

  • Gang wars? We got. Mafia activities? Enough to start a new HBO series. Jets and Mets fans? We got by the thousands. Earthquakes? We got none.

  • A bunch of the staff of the Fred Thompson for President campaign were sitting at dinner when it felt like a subway train (they don't have subways in Los Gatos, I don't think) came rumbling under the restaurant.

  • The younger, more delicate flowers with whom I was eating sat stock still with their eyes wide.

  • "Earthquake," I said calmly, being older, wiser, and pretty sure there are no subways in Los Gatos.

  • According to my mapping program, Los Gatos is about 14 miles from the epicenter of this earthquake which was at Alum Rock, California.

  • While it was called a "moderate" earthquake by people who were not in it, I am here to tell you that the chandelier over our heads did not stop swinging for a good 5 - 6 seconds after the rumbling stopped. My glass of Pinot Noir didn't stop sloshing around for another 2.3 to 2.5 seconds.

  • The reality is: I didn't see any cattle heading for shelter, nor any household pets running under the living room furniture just before I took a bite of my pasta and shrimp entrée.

  • No bridges collapsed, no houses fell down, and no freeways pancaked.

  • It was, actually, pretty cool, but it did remind me that it was one more reason why I have no desire to live in California.

    New Topic

  • The Democrats had another in the never-ending series of debates last night, this time hosted by MSNBC at Drexel University in Philadelphia which, when we were kids, we called "Dreck Tech" although I don't now remember why we thought that was funny.

  • Barak Obama (averaging just under 22% in the Real Clear Politics polling index) and John Edwards (about 13% in the RCP index) took out after Hillary Clinton (46% in the index) but it may be after 11 months of campaigning attacks on Hillary have the same effect on voters as a tree falling in a forest where no one ever goes.

  • If either Edwards or Obama had any credibility left, they would be challenging Clinton for answers like this one on a recent vote on Iran:

  • "In my view, rushing to war we should not be doing that but we shouldn't be doing nothing. And that means we should not let them acquire nuclear weapons, and the best way to prevent that is a full court press on the diplomatic front."

  • Uh. Yeah. What she said.


    When the cable affiliates of NBC hosted the Republican debate in Dearborn, Michigan a month ago they ran Chris Matthews in to do the questioning. Last night, the Dems got Tim Russert.

    You think there's no bias?


  • Hillary is very close to building an insurmountable lead on the Democratic side, which is good news to Republicans. As Sen. Chris Dodd pointed out during the debate, "Fifty percent of the American public say they're not going to vote for her."

  • Watch for the Democratic primary to get very nasty, very quickly.

  • Obama, Edwards, Richardson and the rest are running out of time to stop Hillary Clinton from getting the nomination. They can't afford to talk about themselves; they have to talk about her and when they do, they will have to say appalling things about her.

  • Seismic, almost.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Great Earthquake of 2007, and the Dreck Tech debate. Also a Mullfoto worthy of an M. K. Escher drawing and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Sunday, October 28, 2007

    Licensing Illegal Aliens

  • This is the kind of opening paragraph we don't get enough of from the Associated Press:
    "Lou Dobbs is sorry about calling Gov. Eliot Spitzer an idiot."

  • It turns out, according to Larry McShane's reporting, that Dobbs more-or-less apologized for calling the Democratic Governor of New York an idiot by saying, "Your policies are idiotic. But I have to apologize for calling you an idiot."

  • This is my kind of apology: Repeat the charge, defend the reason you said it in the first place, and then apologize by using the exact wording again.

  • This whole thing started when Spitzer decided that the State of New York would begin issuing driver's licenses to illegal aliens.

  • A driver's license is as close to a national identity card as exists in America.

  • Want to open a bank account? Show your driver's license.

  • Need to check into a hotel? Show the card.

  • Have to get … on … an … airplane? Try showing the genius at the little desk in the security line anything other than a driver's license.

  • Under current federal law, called "Real ID", according to the New York Newsday newspaper:
    "To get a Real ID-compliant driver's license, you must prove you are in this country legally, that you have a Social Security number and that you are who you say you are."

  • Under the Spitzer plan, according Newsday, there is "no Social Security requirement, but [an] applicant must present a valid foreign passport and swear that he or she is ineligible for a Social Security number."

  • The notion of presenting a "valid foreign passport" to the clerk behind the counter at the DMV who will be able to detect whether or not it is a forgery is laughable or, to use Lou Dobbs' word, idiotic.

  • Which of us would be able to detect the legitimacy of a passport issued to someone who claims to be one of the 13,528 citizens of the Republic of Nauru - a country in the South Pacific which measures a total of 21 square miles (approximately the size of the casino in the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas)?

  • According to the CIA World Factbook, of those 13,528 citizens, 12,172 of them are unemployed and so it is not out of the question some might sneak into the US looking for work and show up in New York, passport at the ready.

  • It is true that there are no recorded cases of Nauruians being involved in terrorism, but they are not the issue. The issue is someone from, say, Iran claiming to be from Nauru, being able to get their hands on a New York State driver's license and being able to check into hotels willy-nilly.

  • Elliot Spitzer made his name as a crusading New York State Attorney General. You would think that a former Attorney General would have some interest in actually enforcing the law.

  • You would think that the Governor of a State (who, one assumes, did not have his fingers crossed as he took his oath of office) would be even more interested in enforcing the law.

  • If someone shows up at an official state office and presents themselves as an ILLEGAL alien, they shouldn't be granted a driver's license. They should be arrested and sent home.

  • And, if they were dumb enough to claim to be from Nauru, they should be put on the first empty phosphate carrier heading back to the South Pacific, no matter where they are really from.

  • The Department of Homeland Security and the State of New York have reached a deal (which has also been struck by Arizona, Washington State and Vermont) to allow illegal aliens to get licenses so long as it is clear the card is not to be used for Federal ID purposes.

  • Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said, "I don't endorse giving licenses to people who are not here legally, but federal law does allow states to make that choice."

  • Follow me here: Chertoff heads DHS. DHS contains FEMA which, while Chertoff was his boss, was led by your guy Brownie during Katrina. DHS also oversees those highly skilled TSA people who shout at you to take off your shoes and take out your laptop.

  • This same Michael Chertoff is making deals with states to allow illegal aliens to get drivers licenses.

  • Idiocy.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the AP story about Lou Dobbs, the Newsday article, the CIA entry on Nauru, a Mullfoto from this past weekend, and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Thursday, October 25, 2007

    What Happens in Vegas ...

    From Las Vegas, Nevada

    Urban Land Institute

    NOTE: There is nothing of import in this edition of Mullings. Think of it as a mini-micro-nano Travelogue.

    I am not a gigantic fan of Las Vegas. I speak here twice a year or so and am perfectly happy to get in as close to the event as possible and leave as quickly afterward as possible.

    I am not morally opposed to gambling, but I don't get why people would put their money into an endeavor in which they are pretty much guaranteed to come out on the short end.

    In fact, casinos in Las Vegas have the right to toss you out if you win too much; but apparently you can stay as long as you want if you are losing.

    Just prior to the 2004 election, I was involved in a four-person panel (two Republicans and two Democrats) at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Florida which is owned by the Seminole Indians.

    The next morning I asked the guy who had developed the property how long it took to make back the cost of a slot machine. I swear this is true: "Two days," he said. "This is a very good business."

    Let's assume he was wrong by a factor of 50 and it really takes a little over three months to pay for a slot machine. For the next five years it just chugs along taking money from people who wear high black socks and flip-flops; and Bermuda shorts hiked up to their chest, cinched by a white belt.

    I stayed at the Venetian Hotel where Bob Beckel - my Fox News Channel debate partner on Saturday mornings - and I have been booked to do a two-man act talking about the election situation.

    Our slot was from 3-4:30 in the afternoon, but this is in the Pacific time zone so it was really from 6-7:30 in the evening.

    The whole time zone thing confuses everyone. When I was in Iraq and my cell phone rang at 2:30 in the morning, I would roll over, press the answer button and say, "You counted the wrong way," and hang up.

    After our panel, Beckel went to the Expo Center to sign some copies of the new book he and Cal Thomas have written, "Common Ground." I went to find us a restaurant.

    I decided on an Italian place just off the Grand Canal and made a reservation for six o'clock. In the event we got there at 6:15, but my mind was doing the arithmetic noting that it was 9:15 in the East and I was not going to get MULLINGS out on time.

    We had a meal and Bob said he was going to play the slot machines and some video poker. I told him that I didn't gamble, but I'd sit next to him for a while. Actually, I didn't know how slot machines worked, and I wanted to watch him.

    He put a $20 bill into the machine and started pressing a button.

    "That's it?" I asked.

    "What did you think happened?" He answered.

    I didn't have a good response so I took $20 out of my wallet and pushed it into the "Say Goodbye to Your Money" slot in the $1 machine.

    Bob told me not to play three credits but to press the one credit button.

    I did and I won $60 dollars. I kept playing and went up and down between $60 and $70. Bob went through his money in about six minutes. He moved to the machine on the other side of me and went through that $20 as well.

    "Why would anyone do this if there weren't someone next to them to talk to?" I asked.

    "Shut up," he said as he went to find a video poker machine.

    I pressed the "Cash Out" button and a receipt came out indicating it was good for $65 dollars, meaning I was $45 to the good after about 10 minutes.

    I told Bob I was going to go up and write a column and get to sleep.

    Walking through the casino to find the cashier, I started thinking: If I make $45 every 10 minutes, that would be $270 per hour. If I did that for 8 hours per day, five days per week that would be $10,800 per week or $540,000 per year (if I take two weeks vacation - but if you live in Las Vegas, where would you go on vacation?).

    Casinos make money because people like me start having thoughts like that.

    I held the receipt over my head and waved it back and forth as I made my way though the casino asking everyone if they knew where the cashier was located. Because of that, some people may have thought my receipt was for somewhat more than $65.

    Last thing. Someone told me that prostitution was legal in Las Vegas, but no one offered me any money, so I think that must not be true.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to the Bob Beckel/Cal Thomas book a Mullfoto which had me dazed and confused for hours and a catchy caption of the day.

  • Tuesday, October 23, 2007

    More Things to Worry About

    From Charleston, South Carolina

  • So, now there is this staph infection which, like a Halloween XXVII movie eats your flesh, flattens the tires on your car, wipes out your shrubbery, and causes your dog to run around in little circles barking the main theme from Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks.

  • This particular bug is known as MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

  • Why it is called "aureus" is interesting - baffling, really - because aureus, according to Merriam-Webster's Third Unabridged is Latin for "a gold coin of ancient Rome."

  • Anyway, it seems that this bacterium is racing up and down America's interstate circulatory system infecting students from Virginia to Atlanta.

  • In a remarkable bit of writing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, reporter John Hollis reminds us why the Pulitzer Prizes are awarded out of the same university which recently invited that thug from Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to speak when he reported on an outbreak in an Atlanta suburb in which three middle school students had "been diagnosed with the type of staph infection that is often difficult to treat with antibiotics. All have been referred to a doctor."

  • Who said great writing is a lost art?

  • When the national press corps focuses on something like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus you are never quite sure whether it is really spiking as a health crisis, or it is merely spiking as a way to drive up ratings on local news programs by having pretty young women with eyes wide, reporting on the fact there have been no outbreaks at the high school, but you should be very, very worried about it nonetheless.

  • Remember some years ago when shark attacks were all the rage? It seemed that sharks were swimming through America's sewer systems and lying in wait in the base of toilets for the unwary to take a bit too long doing the crossword puzzle if-you-know-what-I-mean-and-I-think-you-do.

  • It turned out that shark attacks during that particular summer were about average, but because the media decided to shine its bright light upon it, we were led to believe that Great Whites were breeding like one-ton mosquitoes.

  • Similarly, an Associated Press article out of Michigan tells us:
    Michigan county health departments had reported 15 clusters of the staph infection nicknamed MRSA to the state Department of Community Health this year as of late last week. There were 52 for all of 2006 and 77 in 2005.

  • Maybe Michiganders wash their hands more than the rest of us. Or maybe this outbreak of MRSA is no worse - maybe even better - than most years.

  • In any event, I don't need another thing to worry about. I have lots of things on my plate already and just this week I added another: I read that Marie Osmond fainted during an episode of Dancing With the Stars, although I didn't notice with which Star she had been dancing when she went down.

  • Here's a headline for you: OUTBREAK OF FAINTING DURING FAKE REALITY SHOWS! Last year exactly zero people fainted. This year - already - one has hit the deck.

  • I am also worried about a middle school in Maine giving birth control drugs and devices to 11 year old boys and girls. I mean, I want to believe I'm opposed to the concept on moral and cultural grounds, but deep in my heart I know I am jealous that fifth graders are in a position to even know about that stuff much less participate.

  • As I remember, I was 42 when I realized the whole stork thing was not the most likely source of new babies.

  • And finally, I was told this week that Washington, DC - your nation's capital - is home to some of the ugliest people in America. Washington was barely beat out by Philadelphia for the least attractive population.

  • Why is this important to me? Because I live right outside of The District and I have an office right downtown.

  • Maybe, if I had hair …

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to much of the material above; a Mullfoto from Palm Springs a couple of weeks ago and a Catchy Caption of the day.

  • Tuesday, October 16, 2007

    Nobel Pie Piece

  • A study in the UK has absolved individuals for being fat by concluding, "in the largest ever UK study into obesity, backed by government and compiled by 250 experts, said excess weight was now the norm in our 'obesogenic' society."

  • The study also said that "dramatic and comprehensive action was required to stop the majority of [UK citizens] becoming obese by 2050."

  • Assuming people in the United Kingdom are not any more prone to obesity nor any less capable of controlling their eating habits than the rest of us, I do believe I see a big fat path to my own Al-Gore-Style Nobel Prize.

  • First we have to get the popular press to buy into the notion that being chubby is not any individual person's fault - it is the fault of society.

  • If we get that done, then it will be a simple step to get the French and the United Nations to blame the United States for contributing much more adipose to the world's supply than our population numbers would suggest we should.

  • Next we should convene an international conference - say in Lodz, Poland - to hammer out a treaty in which each country would sign up for a set number of kilograms per capita to be lost over the next 175 years.

  • Poles, generally, are known for their high regard for the trim torso, and Lodz - which, if we pronounce it "loads" actually makes some sense.

  • India and China would, of course, be exempt because … I forget why, but they're exempted from all the other bad behavior in the world - nuclear proliferation, smog, basic human rights (especially among women), currency manipulation - so we should exempt them from this as well.

  • Oh. A color. We'll need a stout color. Green is, of course, already taken by the environmentalistas so we need something else. What color screams "THIN!?"

  • Can't be white or black. "Let's all try to be more white (or black) has certain heavy overtones which should be fairly obvious to all.

  • Stripes. Vertical stripes. You can have any combination of colors you like so long as they are combined into vertical stripes.

  • "Let's all try to be more striped" is a big idea.

  • We'll need a weighty slide show. I know how to use Powerpoint up to a point but we need a thick stack of those babies to bore the oversized pants off audiences.

  • We'll need all sorts of charts and graphs which prove that the girth of the human population is growing to gut-busting proportions.

  • If we can get the presentation trimmed down to, oh, an hour forty, we can film me doing it and submit it for consideration for an Academy Award.

    [Note: Insert appropriate Turkey, Greece and Hungary jokes here]

  • Another huge plus would be to publish a book: "An Inconvenient Tooth" explaining in excruciating detail what is involved in the whole overeating phenomenon and how we must change it before we are all necessarily buried in piano cases.

  • I will give speeches on the rubber boneless, skinless chicken breast circuit. My ample speaking fee would be shared with worthy international anti-plump societies to do good works among their spreading populations.

  • The crowning glory would be the Nobel. Even I am not so vain as to suggest I would win a Nobel Peace Prize for my anti-fat crusade.

  • I would certainly settle for a Nobel Pie Piece.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to the BBC story about national obesity, how many pounds in a kilogram, a subject-matter-appropriate Mullfoto and a Catchy Caption of the Day

  • Sunday, October 14, 2007

    Why Al Gore Will Not Run

  • Al Gore will not run for President in 2008.

  • He will be coy about not running because, as Newt Gingrich has taught us over the past 10 months, being a potential candidate gets you Tim Russert asking you about health care on Meet the Press.

  • Being an actual candidate gets you a local AP reporter asking you, at a stop in a diner in Manchester, New Hampshire, what really did happen at that fundraiser with those Buddhist Monks.

  • I know that sounds backwards, but that's the way it is.

  • If I were advising Mr. Gore here's what I would tell him.
    1. When people ask you about running simply smile that supercilious smile you have been perfecting for the past 30 years, shrug, and walk away.

    2. Meanwhile, instruct your staff, aides, advisors, friends, former employees and anyone else you have an e-mail address for to tell everyone they have an e-mail address for all the good reasons why would shouldn't run, without ever actually saying you wouldn't run.

    2a. For instance, Paul Begala was quoted in the NY Times yesterday as saying:

    "[Gore] knows there's a Democratic field that Democrats are happy with, and that they don't need a white knight riding in."

    That, back in the Watergate days, was known as a non-denial denial.

    3. When it comes to "Draft Al" websites, say, with the precision and clarity which has made us adore you over the years:

    "As the inventor of the Internet, I know that a person can run any website he or she may desire so long as there is no controlling legal authority preventing it."

  • The Clintonistas understand that Gore is not going to run and so can pretend to be very, really, extremely happy about that fact that he won a Nobel Peace Prize before Bill did - although it is reasonable to suspect Bill Clinton misunderstands the spelling of that particular award.

  • Nevertheless, do not think for one second that the Clinton campaign hasn't hired someone to sit at the Secretary of State's office in New Hampshire to make certain no papers are submitted on Gore's behalf prior to the November 2 filing deadline which would make him eligible for the first-in-the-nation primary there in early January.

  • According to some reports, Gore is making up to $175,000 per speech which means he makes more in three speeches than he would make in a whole year as President.

  • And, having won the Nobel Peace Prize it will sort of be required that he take a position against having a strong military because, according to the Information Please web page, the Peace Prize was developed by Alfred Nobel to honor "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."

  • Which explains why Jimmy Carter's dismantling of America's military and intelligence capabilities during his Presidency would have been rewarded with the Peace Prize in 2002.

  • Al Gore has certain Jimmy Carter-esque personality traits including truly believing he is superior to the rest of us which is sort of antithetical to what your average Democratic voter in Storm Lake, Iowa might be looking for in a candidate.

  • The punditocracy will be in full roar this week analyzing a potential run by Al Gore in 2008. It is not going to happen.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: The definition of "supercilious," a link to the Christian Science Monitor discussion of a Gore run; a history of the Nobel Prizes generally and Peace Prize winners in particular as well as a Mullfoto I wish I hadn't had to shoot and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Thursday, October 11, 2007

    Debate Prep

    In the run up to Tuesday night’s debate in Dearborn, Michigan, reporters tried to tease out of the campaign how Senator Thompson had prepared, how many rehearsals he had been involved with, who (if anyone) had played the other candidates, and so on.

    Without giving away any family secrets, I can tell you that I played the role of Chris Matthews in several of the sessions – a clear case of casting, as they say, against type.

    A political debate has as much to do with a collegiate debate as Major League Baseball has to do with a major leak in your basement.

    I was a debater in college. Briefly. It was way more hard work than I had signed up for and I went back to my principal extra-curricular activity: Trying to learn to like beer.

    Prior to being a debater in the first semester of my sophomore year, I had been the coxswain on the freshman crew at Marietta College, Marietta, Ohio 45750. Over the summer I went from about 123 pounds to about 135 and my coxswaining days were over.

    In the American debate system there is one question which every debate team must answer. Something like; “Resolved: That the United States should withdraw from NATO, SEATO, and FRITO and concentrate on domestic issues.”

    Every debater on every team combs through the Internet looking for every article, reference, statement, or comment which deals with the issue – either in favor or in opposition.

    Back in my day there was no Internet. In fact, desktop computers hadn’t been invented yet, so we spent hour after hour getting paper cuts in the library going through the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature, the reference section, and any non-fiction book dealing with any aspect of the question.

    Anything we found was typed onto a 3 x 5 index card and placed into an “evidence box” – a long metal index card holder – where the quotes and citations were indexed and cross-matched so that we could find any one on a moment’s notice and destroy, or at least counter, the other team’s argument.

    When I say “we” I really mean the other members of the debate team who actually set foot inside the Dawes Memorial Library which I, in the course of my seven-and-a-half year undergraduate career, never actually did.

    In the recent past, before cable news, the three major networks took debates seriously. A panel of respected reporters – journalists, they called them back in the day – would spend time thinking about the questions they would ask which would have the best chance to elicit a rational response, in turn, giving the viewers or listeners an insight into what a candidate thought about an issue and how he or she had arrived at that conclusion.

    A modern political “debate” is more like a game show and an exercise in illumination:

    “I’ll take ‘Entitlements’ for 20, Alex.”

    “$72 Trillion”

    “What is the total amount of entitlement spending expected over the next 75 years?”

    “Correct! Circle gets the square.”

    I know I mixed game shows, but you get my point.

    Modern political debates will continue until the press corps quits showing up. When the press corps stops coming, so will the candidates and things will get back to normal.

    But not in this election cycle.

    The end of the story about my collegiate debating career is this: I was a junior varsity debater and, like the other JV debaters knew a lot about whatever the subject was my sophomore year. Varsity debaters knew everything about the subject.

    Once in a while when my team found itself in a logical black hole, I would reach into the evidence box, pull out an index card – any index card – and, with a flourish read a quote from The Atlantic Forum Quarterly – Spring 1952 – “It has never been the collective wisdom of Western thinkers …” all of which I had made up on the spot.

    Varsity debaters would have known there was no such journal as the Atlantic Forum Quarterly. JV debaters weren’t certain.

    When I figured out I could get away with that …

    I knew politics was for me.

    MULLINGS - The Disappearing Deficit

    On the Road
    Nashville, Tennessee

    • Stay with me here. This is important.

    • The fiscal year for the Federal government runs from October 1 through September 30.

    • The budget deficit is the difference between the amount of money, each fiscal year, that the Federal government takes in from all sources (taxes, fees, leases, etc.) and the amount it pays out.

    • The national debt is the total of all the accumulated annual deficits.

    • It has been an article of faith among Conservatives that lowering tax rates increases government revenues. This was popularized by a University of Chicago professor named Arthur Laffer who, so the story goes, was having dinner one night in Washington DC and drew a diagram upon a napkin showing the effects of tax rates and tax revenues.

    • This, of course, became known as the “Laffer Curve” and has sustained Republican candidates for the ensuing 30 years.

    • Until I read Laffer’s description of that night, I had not known that at that 1974 dinner (in addition to an editor of the Wall Street Journal) was the White House Chief of Staff for President Ford and his deputy: Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney respectively.

    • Interesting, huh?

    • According to Laffer, lowering tax rates works because of:

    “… the positive impact that lower tax rates have on work, output, and employment -- and thereby the tax base -- by providing incentives to increase these activities.

    “Raising tax rates has the opposite economic effect by penalizing participation in the taxed activities.”

    • To grossly overstate it to make the point, if you tax the profits on certain activities at 100% and other activities at zero percent, it doesn’t take a PhD in economics to understand which activity businesses will pursue.

    • I made you wade through all that because the Administration, this week, released figures showing that since the 2003 tax cuts took effect, the deficit – in spite of the enormous amount spent on the war on terror, national disasters, and growing entitlements – has decreased by nearly a quarter of a TRILLION dollars.

    • In fact, according to a White House release:

    “In February the Federal budget deficit for 2007 was projected to be $244 billion. Today's numbers show that the budget deficit is now just $163 billion.”

    • Putting aside for a moment the notion that only the US Federal government would have the chutzpah to use the word “just” ahead of a deficit number of $163 billion” this is pretty good news.

    • Not only that, but the Office of Management and Budget is projecting that, if the current tax structure stays in place, the nation could be looking at its first surplus since the attacks of 9/11.

    • Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal editorialized on this subject and noted that

    “federal receipts have climbed by $785 billion since the 2003 investment tax cuts, the largest four-year revenue increase in U.S. history … The overriding lesson here is that the best antidote for deficits is faster growth, not tax increases.

    “The budget deficit has declined more rapidly this decade in the wake of the Bush tax cuts than it did in the 1990s in the wake of the Clinton tax increases.”

    • That pesky Laffer Curve stuff again.

    • The tired phrase “tax and spend Democrats” will soon be filling your mailbox from Republican candidates but, pending some new formulation of the phrase, it is the Dems in the House and Senate which will surely try to put the brakes on economic growth.

    • If a Democrat occupies the White House starting in 2009, you can bet on it because the Republican tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 are scheduled to expire in 2010.

    • Higher Taxes = Lower Growth. Seems so simple you could write it on a napkin.

    • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to Laffer explaining his curve, the graphic showing the deficit reductions and’s explanation of it all. Also a Mullfoto from beautiful downtown Old Town, Alexandria and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

    Also, on the Mullblog today is an amusing description of my brief career on my college debate team.

    Sunday, October 7, 2007

    SCHIP-pery Slope

  • The House and Senate sent a hugely expanded version of the SCHIP program to the President and the President, as promised, vetoed the bill.

  • First things first. SCHIP is not pronounced "ship." It is pronounced "ESS-chip."

  • Now for the dead lock bar bet: SCHIP stands for … State Children's Health Insurance Program.

  • Which, of course, it is not. It is a FEDERAL children's health insurance program but "EFF-chip" wasn't ever going to fly if only because it sounds too much like F-Troop.

  • According to PBS, the original CHIP (no S) program was adopted in 1997 having been supported by President Bill Clinton.

  • The idea behind this program is a worthy one: To provide health insurance to children whose families are too poor to afford the premiums on their own, but make too much to qualify for coverage under Medicaid.

  • The program which has been in effect covers young Americans up to the age of 18 with a family income of not more than twice the official poverty level.

  • According to the Department of Health & Human Services web site, in 2007 a family of four was deemed living at the poverty level if it had an annual income of not more than $20,650. That level of income for a family of four would qualify as poverty in 2007 under any fair assessment.

  • A child in that family qualifies for health care through Medicaid but a family making a total income of $30,000 would not. Under the existing SCHIP guidelines a child with a family income of up to $40,000 would qualify.

  • But, the Democrats' re-do has upped the income level for a child to qualify to $83,000 - FOUR times the poverty level (at least in New York) which is an income stretching the definition of "poverty" to the point of snapping.

  • Not only that, but the Democrats' bill redefines a "child" as someone up to age 25, stretching the definition of "child" to … well, you know.

  • There may be people who believe that if you can't afford health insurance for your kids, that's just too bad, but I am not one of them. The kids didn't ask to be born - and they certainly did not ask to be born into a family earning just 200% of the poverty level.

  • Of course, the Popular Press has joined with its allies in the Democratic Party to portray President Bush as being anti-child. The Washington Post's Michael Abramowitz and Jonathan Weisman led their piece thus:
    "President Bush yesterday vetoed a $35 billion expansion of a popular children's health insurance program, a move that left him as politically isolated as he has ever been and had even Republican allies questioning his hard-line strategy."

  • President Bush made it clear that he wanted the Congress to send him a re-authorized SCHIP program which he could sign, but Democrats sent up a bill which the White House had warned was veto-bait.

  • Why? So they could set up this exact discussion: Bush will argue in favor of tax cuts for the rich, while he vetoes health care for poor children.

  • No main stream medium will write this, but the reality of the situation is: Congressional Democrats were willing to trade the health of children to score political points against the President.

  • It is also true that if they can expand coverage to families up to 400% of the poverty line and individuals up to the age of 25, Democrats can go to 800% of poverty ($160,000 per year) and individuals up to 65 (when Medicare kicks in).

  • National. Health. Insurance.

  • I told a New York Times reporter when I was called about the political impact of the President's veto that for many - if not most - Republican primary voters, this expansion of the SCHIP program was not a step down the slippery slope of national health care - it was a four man bobsled on an Olympic run.

  • He didn't use the quote.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to an explanation of F-Troop, the HHS poverty page, and the White House myth/fact page. Also an Autumnal Mullfoto and a Catchy Caption of the Day.