Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Monday, December 5th, 2005.

Air-Conditioned Garbage Trucks

Bush Administration, Terrorism, War on Terror

Yesterday I mentioned that Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, the chair and vice-chair of the 9/11 commission, were on Meet the Press. Today they have an op-ed in the New York Times in which they argue the Department of Homeland Security is seriously screwed up.

Billions have been distributed with virtually no risk assessment, and little planning. Nor has the federal government set preparedness standards to help state and local governments use the money wisely. The District of Columbia used part of its grant to buy leather jackets and to send sanitation workers to self-improvement seminars. Newark bought air-conditioned garbage trucks. Columbus, Ohio, bought body armor for fire department dogs. These are not the priorities of a nation under threat.

Since they said a lot yesterday that didn’t end up in the Times, I’m adding a chunk of the Meet the Press transcript, below the fold.

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Happy People

Bush Administration, economy

I keep seeing variations of the same conversation on the television talk shows: The bobbleheads tell each other the economy is doing great but wonder why the President isn’t getting credit for it. Here’s just one example, from MSNBC’s “Hardball” for November 29.

JOHN FUND, WWW.OPINIONJOURNAL.COM: Well, in the White House you have two divisions. You have the people who say what, me worry? There is nothing going wrong, and anything that‘s going on is somebody else’s fault.

And then there are those who are panicking because they see this administration as rutterless [sic], and they’re worried that the president at the top isn’t paying sufficient attention.

[CHRIS] MATTHEWS: Which—can you give me a couple of names in the everything’s fine category?

FUND: Andy Card, the White House chief of staff.

MATTHEWS: How about in the I’m worried?

FUND: I would say you would go into Al Hubbard, the vice president’s shop, various other people. They’re people who worry that the good news [on] the economy—because the economy is doing very well—is not seeping through.

The administration’s ratings of the economy are down, even though the economy is up.

MATTHEWS: Yes, the market is up almost 11,000, the best market we have had in months.

Let me go to you Tom DeFrank.

Is that the way you see it? There‘s sort of a split screen between the people in the White House who are scared to death because they do see unfair to get credit for the economy and a continuing erosion, I think, on the war front?

TOM DEFRANK, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Yes, there definitely are two factions. And the problem is the president is basically the only faction that counts.

MATTHEWS: And he listens to the happy people.

The good news on the economy is not seeping through. Geez, I wonder why?

The good news has sure seeped through in Washington DC. Ruth Marcus writes in today’s Washington Post:

It was the $1,260 thigh-high giraffe-print boots that started me thinking about Jack Abramoff, Benjamin Ladner and how Washington has changed.

I happened to notice the boots as I was flipping through the latest issue of DC, “The magazine of luxury lifestyle.” Oversized, overstuffed with ads for oversized jewels and undersized clothes, DC is one of a trio of glossy magazines launched this year to appeal to the region’s ultra-high-end market.

I don’t expect — possibly not even the people who put out DC expect — to see anyone actually wearing these boots anytime soon. Rather, the boots — and the $9,100 Louis Vuitton carpet bag with ostrich trim and the $1,900 mink throw featured in the same spread — symbolize a growing Washington phenomenon: extreme wealth.

According to”The Note” for December 2:

The Bush/Cheney/Evans economy got a shiny segment in the first half-hour of NBC’s “Today” show this morning with CNBC’s Jim Cramer giving rave reviews for retail sales, the stock market, and jobs.

Cramer went on to say that home heating is the one thing keeping America’ economy from being great instead of just good.

“The President’s in the bunker. It’s a really great story he could tell, but he doesn’t seem to be that adept at it anymore,” added Cramer.

Of course, that very morning the President did make a Rose Garden appearance to crow about the great economy. So he gave it a shot. Yet Reuters reported the next day:

President George W. Bush, trying to lift his sagging approval ratings, has launched a push to take credit for recent positive economic news the public has largely shrugged off.

In one example of the pessimism, an ABC/Washington Post poll taken in the month ended Nov. 13 showed 64 percent of Americans described the economy as poor or not so good, with only 36 percent judging it to be good or excellent.

Paul Krugman discusses this phenomenon in today’s column:

Yet by some measures, the economy is doing reasonably well. In particular, gross domestic product is rising at a pretty fast clip. So why aren’t people pleased with the economy’s performance?

Like everything these days, this is a political as well as factual question. The Bush administration seems genuinely puzzled that it isn’t getting more credit for what it thinks is a booming economy.

He offers an explanation:

It should have been a good year for American families: the economy grew 4.2 percent, its best performance since 1999. Yet most families actually lost economic ground. Real median household income – the income of households in the middle of the income distribution, adjusted for inflation – fell for the fifth year in a row. And one key source of economic insecurity got worse, as the number of Americans without health insurance continued to rise.

We don’t have comparable data for 2005 yet, but it’s pretty clear that the results will be similar. G.D.P. growth has remained solid, but most families are probably losing ground as their earnings fail to keep up with inflation.

Behind the disconnect between economic growth and family incomes lies the extremely lopsided nature of the economic recovery that officially began in late 2001. The growth in corporate profits has, as I said, been spectacular. Even after adjusting for inflation, profits have risen more than 50 percent since the last quarter of 2001. But real wage and salary income is up less than 7 percent.

In other words, it ain’t tricklin’ down. And the rising tide ain’t liftin’ all the boats.

There was an exchange on yesterday’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” that was priceless, and I’m sorry I haven’t been able to get my hands on a transcript. In the roundtable segment, the Usual Bobbleheads were utterly mystified as to why the plebians don’t appreciate the great economy. Then Robert Reich spoke up and repeated many of the things Krugman says above. And the bobbleheads stared at Reich for a moment, then collectively shrugged off what he had said. Nah, that can’t be it. Then George Will offered an explanation that made no sense at all, and I’m very sorry I can’t repeat it here. I seem to have repressed it.

I wonder if Barbara and Jenna have their giraffe-print boots yet?

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