Down the Drain

Veronique de Rugy's headline advice shouldn't be needed, but … Responsible Government Isn't Just for the Tough Times.

Some policy experts who, over the last few decades, saw little need for serious fiscal austerity because the government could borrow at low interest rates are now changing their tune. Their argument is that with rates now rising and the government's interest payments set to become extremely expensive, it's time to adjust. While I suppose that's progress, they fail to see that the past calls for austerity were attempts to avoid precisely what's happening today.

Indeed, the need for fiscal responsibility was never based on an inability to afford extra debt back then. It was because the moment was destined to arrive when adjustments became necessary, and rising indebtedness ensured that these changes would become more painful.

My very own CongressCritter, Chris Pappas, objects to the (very belated) insistence of the House GOP that if you want to spend more on X, that should, at least, cause Uncle Stupid to spend less on Y.

In this case, by the way: X = "Aid to Israel" and Y = "More IRS Agents". Pappas doesn't mention that issue:

Pappas is a 100% reliable rubber stamp for the Biden Administration, so maybe he's not one to lecture on partisanship.

For more on the vote that Pappas is deploring, see NHJournal (and a comeback to his prattle about "partisan games"): Kuster, Pappas Vote 'No' To Bipartisan Israel Aid Bill.

Democrats object to the fact that the measure would pay for the Israel aid not by borrowing additional money, but by shifting money given to the IRS under the Inflation Reduction Act. Instead, Biden and his allies want Congress to pass a massive $106 billion foreign aid package that also includes money for Ukraine and Taiwan.

Both Kuster and Pappas support the $106 billion Biden spending plan.

Could have added an "of course" to that last sentence.

Also of note:

  • Fine. Do that, Joe. Christian Britschgi brings the glad tidings: Biden Threatens To Veto GOP Spending Bill That Would 'Cut' Amtrak Funding to Double Pre-Pandemic Levels.

    "Amtrak Joe" Biden is doing what he can to earn his nickname by threatening to veto Republicans' plans to "cut" funding to Amtrak to near-historic highs.

    Working its way through the GOP-controlled House of Representatives right now is H.R. 4820, a housing and transportation appropriations bill that would provide Amtrak with $867 million in grants for the coming fiscal year.

    There was much wailing and weeping and gnashing of teeth at the "cut". And, yes, those sneer quotes are richly deserved:

    Missing from the White House's dire warnings about cuts is the fact that Amtrak's annual appropriations are now supplemented by generous yearly grants of $4.4 billion from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) that passed in November 2021.

    When the IIJA money is considered, Amtrak received not $2.4 billion in subsidies in FY 2023 but $6.8 billion. Even if Congress completely zeroed out Amtrak's annual appropriations, the company would still receive that $4.4 billion in IIJA funding.

    To my mind, $867,000,000.00 is still way too much Amtrak spending. But I'll take it.

  • Suggested headline edit: delete the words after "SEC". Well, it's too late for Jack Solowey and Jennifer J. Schulp to take that suggestion, but you can stop reading whenever you want: Don’t Trust the SEC Techno-Pessimists on AI. After a plug for the wonderful Techno-Optimist Manifesto, they continue with:

    Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chairman Gary Gensler has long been in the running for the federal government’s chief techno-pessimist. While that competition is stiff among the mandarins of the administrative state, the SEC’s latest proposed rule is second to none in its ignorant fearmongering about technology, particularly artificial intelligence and related tools (which the agency refers to as “predictive data analytics”), and in its overreaching response.

    From the SEC’s perspective, the greater “scale and scope” of AI and similar tools make them so powerful and complex that they can fundamentally transform and turbocharge risks to investors. Specifically, the commission believes that AI can amplify financial professionals’ (i.e., brokers’ and advisers’) conflicts of interest with their investors, and generate new types of conflicts of interest, to such a degree as to render investors utterly incapable of thinking for themselves. One way that the SEC thinks a financial professional’s use of AI might do this is by nudging an investor towards a product that’s more profitable for the broker or adviser while concealing that fact from the investor.

    The SEC therefore has rushed in with a radically new, invasive, and unworkable compliance regime that abandons the traditional remedy of disclosures to investors. But the commission gets both the problem and the solution wrong.

    The SEC might manage to stifle innovation in this country, but non-US governments and firms will keep plugging away. I don't see what deleterious consequences could ensue from that!

  • Quit it with the proliferation of phobias, already. Matthew Hennessey gets it off his chest: Islamophobia Is a Phony Diagnosis.

    Islamophobia is again the obsession of progressives and the media. “I know many of you in the Muslim-American community, the Arab-American community, the Palestinian-American community, and so many others, are outraged, saying to yourself, here we go again with Islamophobia and distrust we saw after 9/11,” President Biden said in his Oct. 19 prime-time address. The Council on American-Islamic Relations says it has received complaints from Muslims facing “a hostile work environment” caused by employers’ “Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian messaging.”

    Horsefeathers. Islamophobia isn’t real. I defy anyone to prove its existence. Same goes for homophobia, transphobia and xenophobia. These political “phobias” are all fictions. They are cynically potent neologisms designed to equate conservatism with mental illness.

    Accusing someone of a made-up "phobia" is a cheap insult, along the lines of a playground taunt, calling another kid "chicken".

  • And finally: <voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone!</voice>

    Hopefully those folks who were worried that Bender got killed off in the last episode of the new season will be shown to be mistaken. Hey, n00bs: It's not as if it hasn't happened before.

Recently on the book blog:

Last Modified 2024-01-10 7:11 AM EDT

Blacktop Wasteland

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

I really enjoyed this book. It's as if the author, S. A. Cosby, took an advanced course titled "How to Write a Crime Novel That Paul Will Like a Lot". A little heavy on the tear-jerking sentimentality and there's one big Dickensian coincidence, but those things are easy to forgive, when you get up-to-date Chandlerisms like:

The way he stared at him made Ronnie's balls climb up somewhere around his ears.

The likeable, flawed protagonist is Beauregard Montage, an ex-criminal trying desperately to go straight, running his Virginia garage in the face of competition from the upstart discount oil-changer nearby. He feels the financial walls closing in on him and his family. He's worried about how his daddy's crooked genes are influencing his proclivities toward violence and illegality; and he's worried if those traits will be passed down to his boys. But (on the other hand) he is a gifted getaway driver, and he has access to vehicles that can outperform any cop in pursuit…

So, should he take the offer of One Last Job, one that will save him financially? Wouldn't be a very interesting book if he didn't.

But it soon becomes obvious that this was a bad call. His partners in crime are dishonest, stupid, and trigger-happy. Even worse, the jewelry store they knock over is far from respectable; that fortune in uncut diamonds that they steal belongs to a very nasty psychotic crime boss, who has no compunctions about torture and murder to track down Beauregard and his gang. And their families. And anyone else in the way.

I usually schedule my book-reading, N pages per day. But occasionally I'll speed up and devour the last 80 pages or so in one sitting, just to find out how the darn thing ends. This was one of those.

Last Modified 2024-01-09 6:45 PM EDT