Wednesday, January 26, 2011

State of the Union

I knew that when the President did an effective job of laying out a principled path for the country in his State of the Union speech last night that someone would start muttering about his not being specific enough. I also hope that his presentation might continue to bolster his poll numbers since that's what seems to impress most politicians these days.

So far, of course, I've seen nothing to make me think that the Republicans have any real interest in working together on anything except accepting a cave-in to their ridiculous positions. They just seem to want markers, e.g., pass a repeal health care bill in the House. Sure, Pelosi led the effort to pass things in the House without them because they had no interest in working with any of the Democrats then...or now, or so it seems.

I was pleased that the President reiterated the idiocy of tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. People who want that can seriously talk about the deficit? I also have had it with this "big lie" talk by the likes of Ryan and Bachman about "the failed stimulus"--I would suggest that the stimulus, which per Paul Krugman, wasn't large enough, likely kept us from sinking deeper into recession. Until we make it worth their while for corporations to focus on doing things in the U.S., by taxing their overseas profits, you can wait for more jobs here until the warming oceans freeze over. Where do all the "jobs, jobs, jobs" people think jobs will come from? By trickle-down from rich people who got tax breaks?

The current Economist had an obit for an actual economist, and one whom I had been lucky enough to meet years ago at Cornell, the ever-entrancing Fred Kahn. I think of him when I realize that people oftimes must go against some principles to get things done: he opted for the market on airline dereg and admitted that it had mixed results. Prices fell and have stayed down but service has fallen off too.

I think he might have pointed out that when we speak of state and local governments being pressed and needing to slice expenditures, including contracted-for pensions (notice how the right of contract only exists to protect Wall Street bonuses?), no one seems to recall that this all resulted from people falling for right-wing tax propositions that protected the rich from being taxed at the rates they deserve to be taxed with and that we did up through the Eisenhower years. Cut pensions and services or raise taxes on the people making $1,000,000 or more--tell me that's not an easy choice.

Kahn had credibility because he could tell the pols that they didn't know what they were talking about and go back to academe, which he did. I remember meeting him when he was running a major faculty committee and invited me to attend one of its sessions where the panel was hearing from academics and students about the quality of undergraduate instruction. He sat at the head of the table and fired fusillades of questions at various opinionated people who came in only to make speeches. He demanded facts, backup information, and probed everything without allowing the witnesses to obfuscate and avoid any questions. It might have been out of the Gilbert & Sullivan works of which he was a savant and it was a total delight. I guess his really great skill was in doing all that and coming off as such a nice guy. He was totally amazing.

1 comment:

  1. Having worked in public utility law for a few years at the beginning of my career, I knew of Fred Kahn, though I never met him. I read his articles and, I'm sure, cited them a few times in briefs. He saw that the industry was evolving and that the regulatory regime would have to evolve with it. Had he stayed in that field, I'd like to think he would have anticipated the Enron debacle and perhaps have been able to prevent it.