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Opinion: An excuse for slashing entitlements - Print View. With all the talk of Standard & Poor’s downgrade, no one mentioned that the ratings agency’s business model is, essentially, lying for money.

Opinion: An excuse for slashing entitlements - Print View

Instead, many politicians insist that the S&P downgrade is the reason for the market turmoil — not the banking freeze-ups in the Eurozone or political paralysis here. The credibility accorded to S&P by U.S. political elites shows that the rot is indeed deep — and worrisome. Continue Reading Let’s note, at the start, that this downgrade was absurd. The credit rating of the United States is not in jeopardy. What’s really happening is an attempt by both parties to justify slashing Social Security and Medicare. President Barack Obama, in his speech Monday about the downgrade, used the market turmoil as an excuse to do just that. In effect, there seems to have been a merger of both parties into a single force advocating for the interests of bondholders and the cutting of Medicare and Social Security. Why trust S&P, anyway? George Packer: The Debt-Ceiling Fight Continues. In the midst of the debt crisis in Washington, D.C., Danny Hartzell backed a Budget rental truck up to a no-frills apartment building that is on a strip of motels and pawnshops in Tampa, Florida.

George Packer: The Debt-Ceiling Fight Continues

He had been laid off by a packaging plant during the financial crisis of 2008, had run through his unemployment benefits, and had then taken a part-time job stocking shelves at Target in the middle of the night, for $8.50 an hour. His daughter had developed bone cancer, and he was desperate to make money, but his hours soon dwindled to four or five a week. In April, Hartzell was terminated. His last biweekly paycheck was for a hundred and forty dollars, after taxes.

“It’s kind of like I’ve fallen into that non-climbable-out-of rut,” he said. Reading Between the Lines. The establishment verdict is in: President-elect Bush made an astute choice by tapping Rod Paige, Houston's School Superintendent, to head his Education Department.

Reading Between the Lines

The New York Times blessed the nomination as "wise," and both major teachers' unions have chimed in with support. On most of the hot-button questions, Paige is a relatively uncontroversial pick. About vouchers, he has written, "We believe that public funds should go to students, not institutions, and there may be a time when vouchers will be part of the mix. " (A limited voucher program in Houston was so modest and so narrowly designed that virtually no one took advantage of it.) Paige is a supporter of "performance pay" for teachers and a fairly strong proponent of a skills-based curriculum, especially phonics, but not to the point where he has openly horrified anyone in the teachers' unions or on the educational left. Harold McGraw III. McGraw at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, 2011.

Harold McGraw III

Harold Whittlesey "Terry" McGraw III (born 1948)[1] is the chairman of the board of McGraw Hill Financial, formerly McGraw-Hill Companies. He served as chief executive officer of the company from 1998 until November 2013, and was president from 1993 to 2013. The debt deal:  Disaster averted, decline straight ahead. This is the best the White House could salvage after inexplicably failing to insist that the debt ceiling be raised as part of December’s deal to extend the Bush tax cuts — which would have let the country avoid this unprecedented exercise in self-inflicted damage?

The debt deal:  Disaster averted, decline straight ahead

If you put aside the talking points both sides will peddle, the disappointing contours of the emerging endgame run as follows: First, Washington will do nothing more to boost jobs and growth. The Nauseating Debt-Ceiling 'Solution' - James Fallows - Politics. I agree with Matt Miller: (needless) disaster averted, decline embraced.

The Nauseating Debt-Ceiling 'Solution' - James Fallows - Politics

>>So this is what we've driven the global economy and America's credit rating to the brink for? Costs of War. How the Deficit Got This Big. The Chart That Should Accompany All Discussions of the Debt Ceiling - James Fallows - Politics. It's this one, from yesterday's New York Times.

The Chart That Should Accompany All Discussions of the Debt Ceiling - James Fallows - Politics

Click for a more detailed view, though it's pretty clear as is. It's based on data from the Congressional Budget Office and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Its significance is not partisan (who's "to blame" for the deficit) but intellectual. It demonstrates the utter incoherence of being very concerned about a structural federal deficit but ruling out of consideration the policy that was largest single contributor to that deficit, namely the Bush-era tax cuts.

An additional significance of the chart: it identifies policy changes, the things over which Congress and Administration have some control, as opposed to largely external shocks -- like the repercussions of the 9/11 attacks or the deep worldwide recession following the 2008 financial crisis. The point is that governments can respond to but not control external shocks. But to me it doesn't matter. From this item three months ago: