Steven Rattner | Washington Should Quit Its Budget Gimmicks – The New York Times

Mr. Rattner served as counselor to the Treasury secretary in the Obama administration.

“Americans of a certain age may remember J. Wellington Wimpy, a droll character from Popeye cartoons. “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today,” Wimpy would periodically implore passers-by.

That pretty much summarizes the opaque budget math behind the two huge spending plans now before Congress, one aimed at fixing our physical infrastructure and the other targeted at everything from child care to the climate crisis.

Unlike earlier pandemic rescue efforts, Democratic leaders have promised that these new bills would not add to the country’s enormous deficits. “It is zero price tag on the debt,” President Biden said recently. “We’re going to pay for everything we spend.”

Except they won’t. Take, for example, the bipartisan infrastructure bill. When it was unveiled with great fanfare at the end of July, a group of Democratic and Republican senators proudly proclaimed that its costs would be fully offset by new revenues.

“This is paid for,” said Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia. “Our infrastructure bill is all paid for.”

Just a few days later, the Congressional Budget Office — the official scorekeeper — delivered its verdict: The $550 billion in new spending would, in fact, mostly add to the deficit, with just $173 billion of offsets. A separate analysis by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Budget Model pegged the 10-year shortfall at $351 billion.”

Gail Collins | Robocalls Are Not Even the Worst of It – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“I am happy to inform you that the federal government is revving up the war on robocalls.

I checked on how things were going just after hanging up on a tinny-voiced woman who wanted to warn me that my car’s extended warranty was going to expire unless I pressed 1. In case I didn’t really care, she could take me off the calling list forever if I pressed 2.

Public service announcement: People, do not press 2. It’s press 1’s evil twin sister.

Robocalls refer to anything that comes to your phone via automated dialing. Which might include legal stuff you want to hear about, like a snow day.”

As Western Oil Giants Cut Production, State-Owned Companies Step Up – The New York Times

By Clifford KraussOct. 14, 2021, 9:52 a.m. ETHOUSTON — After years of pumping more oil and gas, Western energy giants like BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil and Chevron are slowing down production as they switch to renewable energy or cut costs after being bruised by the pandemic.But that doesn’t mean that the world will have less oil. That’s because state-owned oil companies in the Middle East, North Africa and Latin America are taking advantage of the cutbacks by investor-owned oil companies by cranking up their production.This massive shift could reverse a decade-long trend of rising domestic oil and gas production that turned the United States into a net exporter of oil, gasoline, natural gas and other petroleum products, and make America more dependent on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, authoritarian leaders and politically unstable countries.

Nicholas Kristof Leaves The New York Times as He Weighs Political Bid – The New York Times

“After 37 years at The New York Times as a reporter, high-level editor and opinion columnist, Nicholas Kristof is leaving the newspaper as he considers running for governor of Oregon, a top Times editor said in a note to the staff on Thursday.

Mr. Kristof, 62, has been on leave from The Times since June, when he told company executives that he was weighing a run for governor in the state where he grew up. On Tuesday, he filed to organize a candidate committee with Oregon’s secretary of state, signaling that his interest was serious.

In the email to the staff announcing his departure, Kathleen Kingsbury, The Times’s opinion editor, wrote that Mr. Kristof had redefined the role of opinion columnist and credited him with “elevating the journalistic form to a new height of public service with a mix of incisive reporting, profound empathy and a determination to bear witness to those struggling and suffering across the globe.” “

Why the U.N.’s Biodiversity Conference Is So Important – The New York Times

“As 20,000 government leaders, journalists, activists and celebrities from around the world prepare to descend on Glasgow for a crucial climate summit starting late this month, another high-level international environmental meeting got started this week. The problem it seeks to tackle: A rapid collapse of species and systems that collectively sustain life on earth.

The stakes at the two meetings are equally high, many leading scientists say, but the biodiversity crisis has received far less attention.

“If the global community continues to see it as a side event, and they continue thinking that climate change is now the thing to really listen to, by the time they wake up on biodiversity it might be too late,” said Francis Ogwal, one of the leaders of the working group charged with shaping an agreement among nations.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Hallelujah. I didn’t even know about this important group, since the NYT didn’t ever put it on their front page before. It certainly hasn’t made a big enough noise. “The Most Important Global Meeting You’ve Probably Never Heard Of Is Now.” Countries are gathering in an effort to stop a biodiversity collapse that scientists say could equal climate change as an existential crisis. I am disappointed that the NYT, which I study daily, didn’t give this front page space until today. Better late than never I guess.

Nicholas Shaxson | The Pandora Papers Expose Britain’s Role in Money Laundering – The New York Times

Mr. Shaxson is the author of “Treasure Islands,” a book about tax havens, and “The Finance Curse,” about oversize global finance.

“In 1969, two years after the Cayman Islands, a British territory, passed its first law to allow secretive offshore trusts, an official government report struck an ominous note. A tide of glossy propositions from private developers, it warned, was washing through the islands. Cayman was fast becoming a state captured by shady finance.

Those were the pungent beginnings of a modern system brought to light by the Pandora Papers, an enormous data leak coordinated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The papers exposed a smorgasbord of secretive and questionable financial dealings by more than 330 politicians and public officials from over 90 countries and territories — and over 130 billionaires from Russia, the United States and elsewhere. On display was a dizzying array of chicanery and wealth hoarding, often by the very people who should crack down on it.”

Paul Krugman | A Deserved Nobel Economics Prize Reminds Us Facts Matter – The New York Times

“Nobel Memorial Prizes in economics are given for long-term research, not for economists’ role in current debates, so they don’t necessarily have much bearing on the political moment. You might expect the disconnect to be especially strong when the prize is given mainly for the development of new research methods.

And that’s the case for the latest prize, awarded Monday to David Card, Joshua D. Angrist and Guido W. Imbens, leaders in the “credibility revolution” — a change in the way economists use data to assess theories — that has swept economics over the past generation.

It turns out, however, that the credibility revolution is extremely relevant to current debates. For studies using the new approach have, in many though not all cases, strengthened the argument for a more active government role in addressing inequality.

As I’ll explain, that’s not an accident. But first, what’s this revolution all about?”

Aspirin Use to Prevent 1st Heart Attack or Stroke Should Be Curtailed, U.S. Panel Says – The New York Times

“Doctors should no longer routinely begin prescribing a daily regimen of low-dose aspirin to most people at high risk of a first heart attack or stroke, according to new draft guidelines by a U.S. panel of experts. The proposed recommendation is based on mounting evidence that the risk of serious side effects far outweighs the benefit of what was once considered a remarkably cheap weapon in the fight against heart disease.

The U.S. panel also plans to retreat from its 2016 recommendation to take baby aspirin for the prevention of colorectal cancer, guidance that was groundbreaking at the time. The panel said more recent data had raised questions about the putative benefits for cancer, and that more research was needed.”

Charles M. Blow | The Democrats Are in Danger of a Midterm Rout – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“The Democrats are staring down real danger.

They just aren’t getting enough done. They aren’t moving quickly enough on President Biden’s major campaign promises.

The warning signs are all around.

Democrats are still wrangling over their infrastructure and social spending bills. And the longer the fight drags on, the uglier it looks. Washington watchers are right — to a degree — to say that this is simply the way that large legislation is worked through. It’s a slog.

In the end, I believe that the Democrats will have no choice but to pass something, no matter the size, because the consequence of failure is suicide. Democrats must go into the midterms with something that they can call a win, with something that at least inches closer to the transformations Biden has promised.

But the budget isn’t the only issue.

There is still a crisis at the border.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Hi Charles, you made some good points, but you basically lost me. I don’t think Manchin and Sinema are the biggest problem, even if they are too far right for me. I see the left wing of the party as the ones responsible for endangering Biden’s presidency and legacy. Are you in that group, who who wouldn’t let the the wonderful, bipartisan infrastructure bill sail through congress, after supported by both parties in the Senate. It isn’t enough to be right, you have to also have the votes in the right places.
I agree with Bret Stephens, who wrote today: “More to the point, I’m a fan of anything that gives Biden a bipartisan legislative win that will be popular with middle-of-the-road voters and arrest the decline in his poll numbers. On that front, I was struck by a fascinating column by our colleague Ezra Klein, based on his interviews with the superstar data analyst David Shor. The long-and-short of it, as Ezra paraphrases Shor, is that “Democrats are sleepwalking into catastrophe.” Shor thinks the Senate will soon slip out of Democratic hands, largely because the party has lost touch with both its white and nonwhite working-class voters. Many Democratic strategists think the way to shore up the Democratic majority is by offering statehood to Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., but I think that would just further alienate the very voters Dems need to win back.”
Climate change is an existential threat. We can’t afford to blow our leadership in congress.
David blogs at InconvenientNews.net

Margaret Renkl | Halting Extinction Is an Issue We Actually Agree On – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/11/opinion/extinction-bipartisan-conservation.html

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — If you’re a certain age, you may remember the snail darter, a small fish in the Little Tennessee River that caused an environmental firestorm when it was listed as endangered in 1975. At the time, the Tennessee Valley Authority was already in the midst of building a dam on the Little Tennessee. Snail darters require free-flowing water to reproduce, and the only known habitat for the entire species was about to be dammed.

The ensuing legal battle made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which sided with the fish. But Congress, pressed by Tennessee politicians, responded by making the Tellico Dam project exempt from the provisions of the Endangered Species Act. The little fish seemed doomed.

You may be wondering why I would resurrect the story of an ancient battle that ended badly for environmentalists. Why bring up the snail darter’s sad tale, especially now, with 22 species in the U.S. newly listed as extinct and one million others on track for the same grim future worldwide?

Those lost creatures are exactly why.

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 garnered the kind of bipartisan Congressional support that we can hardly imagine today. The House voted 355-4 in favor of passage. It was signed into law by President Richard Nixon, a Republican. Since then, it has saved dozens of iconic species like the bald eagle and the peregrine falcon, the Yellowstone grizzly and the American alligator, and it remains extremely popular. Despite near constant challenges from business interests and a great many elected Republicans, at least 80 percent of Americans, including 74 percent of self-identified conservatives, support it.”