Tuesday | 12 March 2013 [evening edition]

politics

THE RYAN BUDGET’S STEP BACKWARD
Ross Douthat | Evaluations | The New York Times

What’s more, the quest for perfect balance leaves the House G.O.P. officially committed to a weird, all-pain version of Obamanomics — in which, for instance, we keep the president’s tax increases and Medicare cuts while eliminating his health care law’s assistance to the uninsured.

The result is a document that’s arguably more unrealistic than the previous versions of the Ryan budget, and that does little or nothing to bridge the gap between the Congressional G.O.P. and the electorate that just re-elected Barack Obama. To some extent, this gap exists because of Ryan’s own ideological commitments, but as Jim Pethokoukis points out, at least some of the ideas that would have improved this blueprint are ideas that the House budget chairman himself has championed in the past. The bigger issue is that many conservative House Republicans plainly feel like they’ve already been forced to compromise repeatedly of late — on questions like the fiscal cliff, the debt ceiling, and so on — and so they want their official budget to take a more absolutist stand. Hence the quest for ten-year balance, and the promise of pain on every front except (of course) marginal tax rates.

But those choices make this a document whose latest revisions are primarily directed inward, offering reassurances that the ideological line is still intact. To those outside the House Republican bubble, meanwhile, the biggest message that Ryan 3.0 sends is this: If the aftermath of 2012 produces fresh G.O.P. thinking on domestic policy, don’t expect it to start in the House.

THE SENATE DEMOCRATS PLAN TO BALANCE THE BUDGET
Matthew Yglesias| Moneybox | Slate

Unlike Paul Ryan, Patty Murray won’t be trying to craft a budget that achieves balance. Instead, she’s aiming for $1.85 trillion in deficit reduction to put the debt:GDP ratio on a falling path. More to the point, she’s looking for a budget that sacrifices the interests of richer people rather than the poor and the middle class. It starts with $100 billion in targeted economic stimulus to address high unemployment, features $975 billion in rescinded tax expenditures, $275 billion in cuts to health care spending (likely structured as cuts in provider payments rather than in benefits or eligibility), $242 billion in reduced interest payments, $240 billion in military cuts, and $218 billion in other cuts.

DWINDLING DEFICIT DISORDER
Paul Krugman | The New York Times

What’s really remarkable at this point, however, is the persistence of the deficit fixation in the face of rapidly changing facts. People still talk as if the deficit were exploding, as if the United States budget were on an unsustainable path; in fact, the deficit is falling more rapidly than it has for generations, it is already down to sustainable levels, and it is too small given the state of the economy.

economics

STARS ALIGN FOR BIG DOLLAR BULL RUN
Michael MacKenzie | Financial Times

The stars are aligning for a major bull run in the dollar. As America emerges from the Great Recession in better shape than the rest of the developed world, the US currency is on a roll.

A wave of upbeat economic figures, the latest being Friday’s robust February jobs data, have pushed the 10-year benchmark Treasury yield back above 2 per cent and left the S&P 500 stock market index sitting just 1 per cent below a record high. And that is good news for the dollar.

psychology

HOW TO STOP BULLYING
Gareth Cook | The Scientific American

Cook: Why did you set out to write a book about bullying?

Bazelon: Four years ago, I noticed a lot of news stories raising the alarm about “cyberbullying,” treating it as brand new, alarming, and epidemic. I wondered if that was true. I started working on a series for Slate, where I’m on staff, and I realized pretty quickly that 1) there is no epidemic and 2) cyberbullying is mostly a new expression of a familiar behavior. It’s very much related to bullying that takes place in person. At the same time, moving online changes the dynamics of bullying—and what the experience feels like for targets—in important ways. So I set out to explore that.

Reporting on bullying connected to my longstanding interest in the role empathy plays in our lives, and in what makes kids resilient. I have two sons, who are now 10 and 13, so I also think about all of this as a mother—how to build character, what limits to set on technology, and other questions along those lines.

guns

POLITICS BY INTIMIDATION
Joe Nocera | The New York Times

“We were in the middle of a special session on a very important tax bill,” she said. “I was right on the middle of it. I said, ‘We’re going back to guns.’ ”

Which is also why Burdick felt so strongly that Clackamas and Newtown, horrible though they were, offered a unique opportunity. Many gun extremists, however, realized the same thing. They fought back. In mid-January, two men began walking around a Portland neighborhood with assault weapons strapped to their backs. Even as schools in the area were locking down, the men insisted that they were “educating the public” about their Second Amendment rights. A month later, at a pro-gun rally at the State Capitol, a number of gun owners openly wielded their weapons — even bringing them into the building.

Burdick began receiving, as she puts it, “the usual threatening e-mails” — as did a fellow gun control advocate in the Legislature, Mitch Greenlick. He told The Oregonian that the e-mail he received from gun extremists was often abusive, obscene and anti-Semitic. He predicted that gun legislation would go nowhere because legislators were too frightened to act. “Politics by intimidation,” he called it.

And then there was Burdick. She was scheduled to hold a town-hall meeting on March 4. But at an earlier town hall held by several other legislators, gun advocates badgered them with angry questions. One of the questioners admitted he was carrying a concealed weapon. Fearing that someone might show up with a gun at her town hall, Burdick decided to postpone it. Not wanting to inflame the situation, she said she had a scheduling conflict.

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