Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Federal Deficit – Swimming Deeper into the Stupid Pond!

Thanks to the good people of Red State America we are now destined for a major budget train wreck. All aboard! The bridge is out, the stoker is pouring on the coal and Engineer Bush is in the dining car having celebratory drinks with the passengers. Apparently fiscal responsibility is not a β€œMoral Value.” The following is from the Economic Policy Institute (bookmark their page as it is essential reading):

Historical experience shows the implausibility of balancing the budget with revenues at only 17.6% of GDP. Total spending is now running at 19.8% of GDP and has exceeded 17.6% every year since 1965 (OMB 2004). Over the past two decades, the ratio of federal spending to GDP has averaged 20.7%. Under the unrealistic assumptions that discretionary spending would grow no faster than inflation and that interest rates would not rise beyond past norms despite ballooning federal deficits and debt, the CBO baseline has spending close to 20% of GDP for the next decade.

No serious student of budget politics believes that the president and Congress will agree to cut spending by more than 10% below that baseline. More likely, the coming decade could resemble the 1981-90 period, when revenues averaged 18.0% of GDP, spending averaged 22.2%, and the debt-to-GDP ratio almost doubled, from 26% to 49%.

Translation: Taxes are going to go up (or America is going down). However, this would require taking responsibility and demonstrating leadership, things Red State America, President Bush and the Religious Right talk about a great deal but have never actually done. Further, the tax hike signed into law by W.'s father helped bring fiscal sanity to our nation but cost George H. W. his job. W. has never forgotten this.

That's right folks, we're all in the dining car and the drinks are going on W.'s tab. Wait a minute, my wallet's missing and so are my credit cards!

Monday, November 22, 2004

Education and the Religious Right - an Oxymoron?

Let me make two confessions (heck, its my blog I'll do whatever I want). First off I am a home school parent. We home school through the local public school system because we want the public schools to get funding and we want them to succeed. We also want to teach our children science, like Evolution and we want to let our children read all kinds of books that Bush and Co. no doubt want banned. The second confession is that I had a distant relative who fought at the Alamo. A very, very, very distant relative named Colonel Travis.

Because we home school we get no end of literature from the good people at Religious Right incorporated. They must be really confused by us given that we are registered Democrats, ACLU members and subscribe to Sojourners magazine. We are also on mailing lists for Focus on the Family and the Republican Party (I think they took us off of this last one). We have a very clear idea of who we are though the religious right seems confused.

One item we get is a catalogue from the good people at "The Vision Forum." The Vision Forum sends out a catalogue every year with all kinds of interesting text books that you won't find in places like a Public Library, Public School or Public anything. The cover of this year's glossy offering from Vision Forum was titled, "A Line in the Sand" and featured a picture of a child dressed like colonel Travis of the Alamo holding a sword in one hand and a sign in the other that reads, "The Biblical Family Now and Forever." The Vision forum in based in San Antonio, Texas. Surprised?

Every year they offer a number of books on famous American heroes who were "Christian." In case you were wondering none of them fought for the North during the civil war. However, Robert E. Lee, a man who never beat his own slaves (he didn't own slaves but his wife did and he beat them to within an inch of their lives) was a worthy role model. Robert E. Lee may have used every means at his disposal to destroy the United States of America (treason?) and preserve the institution of slavery (just plain evil?) but he dressed nice and prayed like a good Evangelical so he's a role model. The other guy we get to learn about is Stonewall Jackson. Jackson had a similar relationship to slavery and the United States but, like Lee, Jackson loved Jesus. Of course, if these guys loved Jesus so much, how come they committed treason and whipped black people? I'm sure all of this is made clear if you buy the book and the recommended "Gods and Generals" video; $45 for both not including shipping.

Blog postings are supposed to be short so I will have to cover the rest catalogue in several postings. The Vision Forum catalogue used to make me mad, but now that I have a blog I realize just how much fun it really is!

How Bush will Destroy Social Security

Robert Reich summarized the key danger of Social Security privatization in the American Prospect. Reich says in part:

There have been, and will be, equally dumb ideas emanating from the Bush administration, but privatizing Social Security surely will be in the qualifying round for the first prize.

Start with the irrefutable fact that Social Security is a pay-as-you-go system. The payroll taxes of today's workers go to today's retirees. And when today's workers retire, they'll be supported by the next generation's payments into Social Security. In other words, Social Security is a compact between generations, based on trust. I pay into Social Security to support my parent's generation in their retirement because I trust that my children's generation will pay into Social Security to support my generation in our retirement

If their Social Security payments are diverted into their own private accounts, their money won't be there for my generation's retirement. The compact will be broken.

Looks like Robert agrees with my Stupid Pond assessment.

Robert Reich is the Maurice B. Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy at Brandeis University and its Heller Graduate School. Before heading the Labor Department, Reich was a member of the faculty at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Is Intelligent Design a Pseudoscience?


The good people at Talkorigins.org have set up a new sub site called Talkdesign.org. It is a sad statement that a fraud like Intelligent Design has become so pervasisive that an entire web site staffed by volunteer scientists needs to be established to confront it. And yet, this is the nature of culture war as launched, funded and fought by the religious right.

Here is Talkdesign's take on the psuedoscientific nature of intelligent design:

We argue that Intelligent Design is a pseudoscience, like Young Earth Creationism, astrology, Atlantis, and the many other belief systems parading as science which fill the mass media. By pseudoscience, we mean a belief system which is claimed to be based on science, but which is actually based on arguments that are not only flawed, but are so egregiously bad that they do not stand up to any serious open-minded examination. Advocates of pseudoscience are motivated by a dogmatic commitment to their position which renders their minds closed to contrary arguments. Common (though not universal) additional symptoms of pseudoscience include the following: arguments are directed towards an audience of non-scientists; grandiose claims are made, often in fields where the claimant has little expertise (viz Dembski's claims to new laws of information and thermodynamics); the overwhelming mass of scientists are claimed to be too biased to judge the arguments fairly; arguments are couched in superfluous technical jargon; arguments use poorly defined new technical terms (or old terms given new meanings); technical arguments are outnumbered by rhetoric; excessive use is made of quotations, often from popular books and often out of context.

Intelligent Design – Teaching Pseudoscience as Science. Does Conservative Christian Theology Promote Lying?

The story of a Pennsylvania school board's efforts to promote Intelligent Design theory has now been covered by the Christian Science Monitor. At least one Christian extremist on the board had the intellectual honesty to make it clear that this really is a religious issue:

At one tumultuous meeting, a supporter of the change reportedly asked an opposing member whether she was "born again." After the plan passed, two board members resigned. In Cobb County, meanwhile, several parents have sued to make the district remove the "evolution is a theory" stickers.

Given the fact that Intelligent Design has no scientific basis it seems especially reprehensible that Conservative Christians would foist this on children. The idea of deceiving children by mandating that they be taught that Intelligent Design, a poorly thought out pseudoscientific fraud meant to promote Creationism, is the scientific equal of Evolutionary is not only an act of deceit but constitutes nothing short of intellectual child abuse.