Morning Report, August 18: Lobbyist Daschle, Sanford’s Kool-Aid, Flying Amino Acids, and the Recklessness of John Edwards
1. I quite enjoyed this article on how “Your Baby May be Smarter Than You Think.” Those of you without babies–or with clearly stupid babies–may not enjoy it as much.
2. “Income Inequality is at an All-Time High,” reports a recent study. If you read the Morning Reports regularly, you’ll know (or at least guess) that it depends on the measure one uses. This study measures how much income, relative to total national income, is accumulated by the top .01%. If you measures the top .1%, one gets a different measure. And if one compares the top decile or quintile to the bottom decile or quintile, again one gets a different answer. The point remains, however, that income inequality is at a high point. Whether or not this is a problem depends on your economic ideology. You may focus rather on equality of opportunity (through studies of fluidity of movement up and down the economic ladder), and say that there is more equality of opportunity now than there ever has been before. My own take is that income inequality (which, to be clear, is not the only way of measuring economic inequality; one can also speak of wealth inequality or consumption inequality, for instance) is not unjust in itself, but that there are problems in the extent of income inequality we see in the United States today, and among those problems is the disproportion of political influence.
Keep in mind this is not a party issue. More Wall Street bankers and investors supported Obama than McCain. It’s a stretch, in my view, to say any more that the Democratic party is “the party of the little guy.” So I think Democrats should see studies such as this also as cause for self-criticism, and Republicans should not feel as though they need to respond defensively. This is not simply a critique of Republicans. One can affirm, for instance, the economic growth and wealth creation of Reaganite policies even as one acknowledges the need to ensure that everyone shares in the benefits of that growth.
3. Some are saying that Obama is fighting not only for health care reform but for his political life. This is overstated. It is very early in the term of a very charismatic President. It may be the case that the bloom is off the rose, and people will no longer assume the truth of whatever spills from the mouth of The One. But let there be no doubt that Obama can recover. If he passes something with some popular elements, and then turns for a little while to easier and more friendly game, he’ll be fine. Conservatives are growing far too confident. There’s an intelligent case to be made that the Right has an opportunity to return to prominence, but there is a long, long way to go, and the vagaries and contingencies of politics and history are beyond any of our imagining.
4. A silly boycott of Whole Foods–yes, Whole Foods–takes shape on the Left. Bill McGurn is right: the rhetoric is getting out of hand here. I am happy to condemn the language used by protesters from the right and the middle, at town halls and elsewhere; but one expects a higher standard from big-time politicos and media personalities.
5. I troll through many news and commentary websites, Left and Right. One of my very favorite commentary sites from the Right is the City Journal, since it has in-depth and sophisticated examinations of pressing issues. One of the best on their website presently is this case for why the Too-Big-to-Fail doctrine must die.
6. As a followup to yesterday’s morning report: Slate‘s Christopher Beam reflects on what disaster would have ensued if John Edwards had actually won the Democratic nomination. Apparently Edwards was willing to risk bringing down the whole party in pursuit of his own individual gain. Typical politician? Yes. And a grave disappointment to all those who believed in Edwards–including some very close friends of mine.
7. What exactly is Obama’s position on same-sex marriage? No one seems to know. Obama knocks the Defense of Marriage Act even as his administration defends it before the Supreme Court. The administration says that the Justice department is simply defending federal law, as it is wont to do. But this is blowing smoke: the administration could well declare that they are not in favor of the law as it stands. Clearly they don’t want to be entangled in such a thorny issue while pursuing their eternal legacy.
8. One of the building blocks of life has been found on a comet. Ponder the wonders of modern science: “Microscopic traces of glycine were discovered in a sample of particles retrieved from the tail of comet Wild 2 by the NASA spacecraft Stardust deep in the solar system some 242 million miles (390 million km) from Earth, in January 2004.” As the report explains, this lends support to the theory that the building blocks of life might have been deposited by a comet (at least one version of this theory used to be called “directed panspermia,” a name not quickly forgotten). The reason this theory is popular? Because scientists really have no idea why, given the astronomical (pardon the pun) improbability, the raw ingredients of life would have come together and combined in just the right way to begin life on our planet.
9. Jenny Sanford speaks to Vogue and reflects on her husband’s “addiction” to “seeing this woman.” This is true as far as it goes; there is (I have observed) an addictive quality to self-destructive affairs. But, like Michael Sherer, I find her later comment interesting: “Politicians become disconnected from the way everyone else lives in the world. I saw that from the very beginning. They’ll say they need something, and ten people want to give it to them. It’s an ego boost, and it’s easy to drink your own Kool-Aid. As a wife, you do your best to keep them grounded, but it’s a real challenge.”
10. Speaking of Michael Sherer, he has an interesting post over at Swampland on how former Senate Majority Leader, and Obama’s first nominee as Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Daschle, derides private insurers on Meet the Press and yet, “in his capacity as a high-paid consultant at the law firm Alston and Bird, is once again working closely with lobbyists for UnitedHealth, the largest U.S. industry player, aiding the company’s effort to convince moderate Senate and House Democrats to, among other things, kill the public option and keep company profits high.” Hypocrisy, anyone?