Saturday, June 09, 2012

... Did Republicans deliberately crash the US economy? Be it ideology or strategem, the GOP has blocked pro-growth policy and backed job-killing austerity – all while blaming Obama by Michael Cohen June 9, 2012 Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., House Majority Leader-elect Eric Cantor of Va., and House Speaker-designate John Boehner of Ohio, leave a news conference, on Capitol Hill in Washington Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010, where they talked about their meeting at the White House with President Obama. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)The Republican party congressional leadership (left to right): Senate Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell, House majority leader Eric Cantor, and House speaker John Boehner, after the 2010 midterms. Photograph: AP Photo/Alex Brandon So why does the US economy stink? Why has job creation in America slowed to a crawl? Why, after several months of economic hope, are things suddenly turning sour? The culprits might seem obvious – uncertainty in Europe, an uneven economic recovery, fiscal and monetary policymakers immobilized and incapable of acting. But increasingly, Democrats are making the argument that the real culprit for the country's economic woes lies in a more discrete location: with the Republican Party. In recent days, Democrats have started coming out and saying publicly what many have been mumbling privately for years – Republicans are so intent on defeating President Obama for re-election that they are purposely sabotaging the country's economic recovery. These charges are now being levied by Democrats such as Senate majority leader Harry Reid and Obama's key political adviser, David Axelrod. For Democrats, perhaps the most obvious piece of evidence of GOP premeditated malice is the 2010 quote from Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." Such words lead some to the conclusion that Republicans will do anything, including short-circuiting the economy, in order to hurt Obama politically. Considering that presidents – and rarely opposition parties – are held electorally responsible for economic calamity, it's not a bad political strategy. Then again, it's a hard accusation to prove: after all, one person's economic sabotage is another person's principled anti-government conservatism. Beyond McConnell's words, though, there is circumstantial evidence to make the case. Republicans have opposed a lion's share of stimulus measures that once they supported, such as a payroll tax break, which they grudgingly embraced earlier this year. Even unemployment insurance, a relatively uncontroversial tool for helping those in an economic downturn, has been consistently held up by Republicans or used as a bargaining chip for more tax cuts. Ten years ago, prominent conservatives were loudly making the case for fiscal stimulus to get the economy going; today, they treat such ideas like they're the plague. Traditionally, during economic recessions, Republicans have been supportive of loose monetary policy. Not this time. Rather, Republicans have upbraided Ben Bernanke, head of the Federal Reserve, for even considering policies that focus on growing the economy and creating jobs. And then, there is the fact that since the original stimulus bill passed in February of 2009, Republicans have made practically no effort to draft comprehensive job creation legislation. Instead, they continue to pursue austerity policies, which reams of historical data suggest harms economic recovery and does little to create jobs. In fact, since taking control of the House of Representatives in 2011, Republicans have proposed hardly a single major jobs bill that didn't revolve, in some way, around their one-stop solution for all the nation's economic problems: more tax cuts. Still, one can certainly argue – and Republicans do – that these steps are all reflective of conservative ideology. If you view government as a fundamentally bad actor, then stopping government expansion is, on some level, consistent. So, let's put aside the conspiracy theories for a moment, and look more closely at how the country is faring under the GOP's economic leadership. As Paul Krugman wrote earlier this week, in the New York Times, while a Democrat rests his head each night in the White House, the United States is currently operating with a Republican economy. After winning the House of Representatives in 2010, the GOP brokered a deal to keep the Bush tax cuts in place, which has reduced the tax burden as a percentage of GDP to its lowest point since Harry Truman sat in the White House. At the insistence of the White House, Congress also agreed to extend unemployment benefits and enact a payroll tax cut – measures that provided a small but important stimulus to the economy, but above all, maintained the key GOP position that taxes must never go up. But as Congress giveth, Congress also taketh. The GOP's zealotry on tax cuts is only matched by its zealotry in pursuing austerity policies. In the spring of 2011, federal spending cuts forced by Republican legislators took much-needed money out of the economy: combined with the 2012 budget, it has largely counteracted the positive benefits provided by the 2009 stimulus. Subsequently, the GOP's refusal to countenance legislation that would help states with their own fiscal crises (largely, the result of declining tax revenue) has led to massive public sector layoffs at the state and local level. In fact, since Obama took office, state and local governments have shed 611,000 jobs; and by some measures, if not for these jobs, cuts the unemployment rate today would be closer to 7%, not its current 8.2%. In 2010 and 2011, 457,00 public sector jobs were excised; not coincidentally, at the same time, much of the federal stimulus aid from 2009 ran out. And Republicans took over control of Congress. These cuts have a larger societal impact. When teachers are laid off, for example (and nearly 200,000 have lost their jobs), it means larger class sizes, other teachers being overworked and after-school classes being cancelled. So, ironically, a policy that is intended to save "our children and grandchildren" from "crushing debt" is leaving them worse-prepared for the actual economic and social challenges they will face in the future. In addition, with states operating under tighter fiscal budgets – and getting no hope relief from Washington – it means less money for essential government services, like help for the elderly, the poor and the disabled. This is the most obvious example of how austerity policies are not only harming America's present, but also imperilling its future. And these spending cuts on the state and local level are matched by a complete lack of fiscal expansion on the federal level. In fact, fiscal policy is now a drag on the recovery, which is the exact opposite of how it should work, given a sluggish economy. This collection of more-harm-than-good policies must also include last summer's debt limit debacle, which House speaker John Boehner has threatened to renew this year. This was yet another GOP initiative that undermined the economic recovery. According to economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, "over the entire episode, confidence declined more than it did following the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc in 2008." Only after the crisis did the consumer confidence stabilize, but employers "held back on hiring, sapping momentum from a recovery that remains far too fragile." In addition, the debt limit deal also forced more unhelpful spending cuts on the country. Since that national embarrassment, Republicans have refused to even allow votes on President Obama's jobs bill in the Senate; they dragged their feet on the aforementioned payroll tax and even now are holding up a transportation bill with poison-pill demands for the White House on environmental regulation. Yet, with all these tales of economic ineptitude emanating from the GOP, it is Obama who is bearing most of the blame for the country's continued poor economic performance. Whether you believe the Republicans are engaging in purposely destructive fiscal behavior or are simply fiscally incompetent, it almost doesn't matter. It most certainly is bad economic policy and that should be part of any national debate not only on who is to blame for the current economic mess, but also what steps should be taken to get out from underneath it. But don't hold your breath on that happening. Presidents get blamed for a bad economy; and certainly, Republicans are unlikely to take responsibility for the country's economic woes. The obligation will be on Obama to make the case that it is the Republicans, not he, who is to blame – a difficult, but not impossible task. In the end, that might be the worst part of all – one of two major political parties in America is engaging in scorched-earth economic policies that are undercutting the economic recovery, possibly on purpose, and is forcing job-killing austerity measures on the states. And they have paid absolutely no political price for doing so. If anything, it won them control of the House in 2010, and has kept win Obama's approval ratings in the political danger zone. It might even help them get control of the White House. Sabotage or not, it's hard to argue with "success" – and it's hard to imagine we've seen the last of it, whoever wins in November. « "The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place, we are entering a period of consequences." - Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm

Saturday, May 12, 2012

WSJ promotes higher taxes on the rich!?!?

The share of pre-tax income accruing to the top 1% of earners in the
U.S. has more than doubled to about 20% in 2010 from less than 10% in
the 1970s. At the same time, the average federal income tax rate on top
earners has declined significantly. Given the large current and
projected deficits, should the top 1% be taxed more? Because U.S. income
concentration is now so high, the potential tax revenue at stake is

But will taxable incomes of the top 1% respond to a tax increase by
declining so much that revenue rises very little or even drops? In other
words, are we already near or beyond the peak of the famous Laffer
Curve, the revenue-maximizing tax rate?

The Laffer Curve is used to illustrate the concept of taxable income
"elasticity,"—i.e., that taxable income will change in response to a
change in the rate of taxation. Top earners can, of course, move taxable
income between years to subject them to lower tax rates, for example,
by changing the timing of charitable donations and realized capital
gains. And some can convert earned income into capital gains, and avoid
higher taxes in other ways. But existing studies do not show much change
in actual work being done.

According to our analysis of current tax rates and their elasticity,
the revenue-maximizing top federal marginal income tax rate would be in
or near the range of 50%-70% (taking into account that individuals face
additional taxes from Medicare and state and local taxes). Thus we
conclude that raising the top tax rate is very likely to result in
revenue increases at least until we reach the 50% rate that held during
the first Reagan administration, and possibly until the 70% rate of the
1970s. To reduce tax avoidance opportunities, tax rates on capital gains
and dividends should increase along with the basic rate.

Friday, April 06, 2012

A Republican meteorologist looks at climate change

April 2, 2012 By Paul Douglas Paul Douglas, a Minnesota meteorologist and author, writes a regular weather feature in the Star Tribune. This article first appeared Thursday on the Huffington Post. I'm going to tell you something that my Republican friends are loath to admit out loud: climate change is real. I'm a moderate Republican, fiscally conservative; a fan of small government, accountability, self-empowerment and sound science. I am not a climate scientist. I'm a Penn State meteorologist, and the weather maps I'm staring at are making me very uncomfortable. No, you're not imagining it: we've clicked into a new and almost foreign weather pattern. To complicate matters I'm in a small, frustrated and endangered minority: a Republican deeply concerned about the environmental sacrifices some are asking us to make to keep our economy powered-up. It's ironic. The root of the word conservative is "conserve". A staunch Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, set aside vast swaths of America for our National Parks System, the envy of the world. Another Republican, Richard Nixon, launched the EPA. Now some in my party believe the EPA and all those silly "global warming alarmists" are going to get in the way of drilling and mining our way to prosperity. Well, we have good reason to be alarmed. Weather 2.0.: "It's a new atmosphere floating overhead." These are the Dog Days of March. Ham Weather reports 5,299 records in the last seven days — some towns 20 to 35 degrees warmer than average; off-the-scale, freakishly warm. 17,360 records since March 1. Sixteen times more warm records than cold records since March 1. The scope, intensity and duration of this early heat wave are historic and unprecedented. And yes, climate change is probably a contributing factor. "Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get." 129,404 weather records in one year, nationwide? You can't point to any one weather extreme and say "that's climate change". But a warmer, wetter atmosphere loads the dice, increasing the potential for historic spikes in temperature and more frequent and bizarre weather extremes. You can't prove that any one of Barry Bond's 762 home runs was sparked by (alleged) steroid use. But it did increase his "base state", raising the overall odds of hitting a home run. A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor, more fuel for floods, while increased evaporation pushes other regions into drought. Larger view Here's what I suspect: the patient is running a slight fever. Symptoms include violent tornado sneezes, severe sniffles of flooding and raging rashes of jaw-dropping warmth. It's 85 in March. What will July bring? It's as if Mother Nature seized the weather remote, clicked America's seasons on fast-forward, turning the volume on extreme weather up to a deafening 10. This isn't even close to being "normal". Weather Underground's Dr. Jeff Masters put it best: "This is not the atmosphere I grew up with." Some TV meteorologists, professionals skilled at predicting short-term weather, are still in denial. Why? Some don't like being upstaged by climate scientists. We've all been burned by weather models, and some (mistakenly) apply the same suspicion to climate simulations. Others can't or won't take the time to dig into the climate science. "It's all political," one local TV weather friend told me recently. No, it's science. But we've turned it into a political football, a bizarre litmus test for conservatism. Weather and climate are flip-sides of the same coin; you can't talk about one without understanding the other. Acknowledging that the atmosphere is warming doesn't make you a liberal. My climate epiphany wasn't overnight, and it had nothing to do with Al Gore. In the mid-'90s I noticed startling changes in the weather floating over Minnesota. Curious, I began investigating climate science, and, over time, began to see the thumbprint of climate change — along with 97 percent of published, peer-reviewed Ph.D.s, who link a 40 percent spike in greenhouse gases with a warmer, stormier atmosphere. Bill O'Reilly, whom I respect, talks of a "no-spin zone." Yet today there's still a very concerted, well-funded effort to spin climate science. Some companies, institutes and think tanks are cherry-picking data, planting dubious seeds of doubt, arming professional deniers, scientists-for-hire and skeptical bloggers with the ammunition necessary to keep climate confusion alive. It's the "you can't prove smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer!" argument, times 100, with many of the same players. Amazing. Schopenhauer said "All truth goes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Then it is violently opposed. Finally it is accepted as self-evident." We are now well into Stage 2. It's getting bloody out there. Climate scientists are receiving death threats and many Americans don't know what to believe. Some turn to talk radio or denial blogs for their climate information. No wonder they're confused. "Actions have consequences." We are accountable. Trust your gut — and real experts. We should listen to peer-reviewed climate scientists, who are very competitive by nature. This is not about "insuring more fat government research grants." I have yet to find a climate scientist in the "1 Percent", driving a midlife-crisis-red Ferrari into the lab. I truly hope these scientists turn out to be wrong, but I see no sound, scientific evidence to support that position today. What I keep coming back to is this: all those dire (alarmist!) warnings from climate scientists 30 years ago? They're coming true, one after another — and faster than supercomputer models predicted. Data shows 37 years in a row of above-average temperatures, worldwide. My state has warmed by at least 3 degrees F. Climate change is either The Mother of All Coincidences — or the trends are real. My father, a devout Republican, who escaped a communist regime in East Germany, always taught me to never take my freedom for granted, and "actions have consequences." Carbon that took billions of years to form has been released in a geological blink of an eye. Human emissions have grown significantly over the past 200 years, and now exceed 27 billion tons of carbon dioxide, annually. Larger view To pretend this isn't having any effect on the 12-mile-thin atmosphere overhead is to throw all logic and common sense out the window. It is to believe in scientific superstitions and political fairy tales, about a world where actions have no consequences — where colorless, odorless gases, the effluence of success and growth, can be waved away with a nod and a smirk. No harm, no foul. Keep drilling. In 2007, before it became fashionable to bash climate science, I had the honor of welcoming Iraqi war veterans back to Minnesota for a banquet. The keynote speaker was my personal hero, Sen. John McCain. At dinner I asked him, "is it possible all this warm, freakish weather is one great big, cosmic coincidence?" He rolled his eyes, smiled and said "Paul, I just returned from the Yukon. The Chief Elder of a local village presented me with a 4,000 year old tomahawk that had just melted from the permafrost. The short answer? No." How did we get from there — to here, with many in my party in perpetual denial? Is it still Al Gore? Fear of a government land-grab? My party needs to step up and become part of the solution, which — later this century — will probably generate more jobs, growth and GDP than legacy, carbon-based industries. I just hope our grandkids aren't having the same "debate" about the science. "You're obsessing," my dear wife of 28 years complained recently. "People don't like having this rammed down their throats." Fair enough. I'm genuinely concerned, because I'm in touch with America's leading climate scientists. They are beyond concerned; bordering on apoplectic. We fiddle while Rome burns. Biblical scripture: "We are here to manage God's property." I'm a Christian, and I can't understand how people who profess to love and follow God roll their eyes when the subject of climate change comes up. Actions have consequences. Were we really put here to plunder the Earth, no questions asked? Isn't that the definition of greed? In the Bible, Luke 16:2 says, "Man has been appointed as a steward for the management of God's property, and ultimately he will give account for his stewardship." Future generations will hold us responsible for today's decisions. I understand this: capitalism requires growth. Growth requires energy. Anything that gets in the way of insuring an uninterrupted flow of (carbon-based) energy must be inherently evil, right? Many in my party have an allergic reaction to regulation, but do we really want to go back to the '60s, a time of choking smog and combustible rivers? There's a palpable fear that Big Government will ultimately prevent the energy industry from extracting (and burning) trillions of dollars of carbon still in the ground; the fuel we think we need to keep America competitive, growing and healthy. Proven U.S. reserves of carbon-based fuels are estimated to be 586 GtCO2, according to the Congressional Research Service. Think Progress's Brad Johnson calculates America has roughly $10 trillion worth of carbon resources still left in the ground (coal, gas and oil). "If we are to avoid the catastrophes associated with greater than 2 C warming, sovereign states and public corporations must strand 80 percent of proven global carbon reserves, a loss exceeding $20 trillion," he said in an e-mail. This is what the fight is about. Big Energy wants to keep us addicted to carbon-based fuels indefinitely; shareholders want to keep the money spigot flowing, and lock in future profits. Surprised? Me neither. But in business, as in life, you hedge your bets. We can slowly, methodically, reduce our reliance on carbon-based fuels, while investing in carbon-clean alternatives. That doesn't mean government picks winners. That's anathema to free enterprise. Climate change: The ultimate test of capitalism. "Let the markets work." I'm a hopeless serial entrepreneur. The eight Minnesota companies I've created ultimately employed a couple hundred professionals. Where others see chronic problems I see opportunity. One of my companies is Smart Energy, with a new level of wind forecast accuracy for global wind farms. Last summer, in response to the most severe two years since 1816, my partners and I launched a new, national cable weather channel ("WeatherNation Television") — to keep Americans updated with 24/7 storm reports. "Global Weirding" has arrived. Why bother? Because it's the right thing to do. And because going green will generate green. As in profits. We won't drill our way out of this challenge; we'll innovate our way into a new, lower-carbon energy paradigm. Something we're pretty good at. We should take another look at newer, safer forms of carbon-free nuclear energy. The Chinese are doing some things with molten salts and thorium. "Fast neutron" reactors burn "waste" and it burns up the resultant plutonium, eliminating the so-called terrorist effect, said Don Shelby, former WCCO-TV anchor and energy reporter. "If the U.S. would allow some reprocessing and enrichment, you could put all of the nuclear waste of the country in a shoebox and never dig another ounce of uranium for 100 years. But before nuclear energy can be considered viable we have to solve the waste problem," he added. I was 30 miles downwind of Three Mile Island the day we had a near-meltdown in 1979. My thinking has evolved since — there's probably a place for (safe) nuclear power. Amazingly, America already has the technology and creative minds necessary to ensure future growth and more jobs, without treating Earth like a battered ATM card. We can tackle this problem, like we've tackled every other problem in our nation's history. But do we have the political will? Washington D.C. is broken, utterly incapable of dealing with long-term threats. Compromise is seen as weakness; our natural resources put at risk by political paralysis. Will getting serious about climate change require a third political party: a pro-jobs, pro-clean-energy Common Sense Moderate Middle — to prove that America can move forward and thrive, without trashing the land and air we value? Perhaps. Will it take a series of climate catastrophes to shake some of us out of our perpetual-denial-bubble? I hope not. The climate is warming. The weather is morphing. It's not your grandfather's weather anymore. The trends are undeniable. If you don't want to believe thousands of climate scientists — at least believe your own eyes: winters are warmer & shorter, summers more humid, more extreme weather events, with more frequent and intense rains. For evidence of climate change don't look at your back yard thermometer. That's weather. Take another, longer look at your yard. Look at the new flowers, trees, birds, insects and pests showing up outside your kitchen window that weren't there a generation ago. This is a moral issue. Because the countries least responsible will bear the brunt of rising seas, spreading drought and climate refugees. Because someday your grand kids will ask, "What did you know...when...and what did you do to help?" We've been binging on carbon for 200 years, and now the inevitable hangover is setting in. Curing our addiction to carbon won't happen overnight. But creative capitalism can deal with climate change. I'm no fan of big government or over-regulation. Set the bar high. Then stand back and let the markets work. Let Americans do what they do best: innovate. "The mother of all opportunities:" Turning America into the Silicon Valley of clean energy. We can figure this out. Frankly, we won't have a choice. But I'm a naive optimist. We can reinvent America, leaving us more competitive in the 21st century, launching thousands of new, carbon-free energy companies — supplementing, and someday surpassing anything we can expeditiously suck out of the ground and burn, accelerating an already-warming planet. We won't have to bury our heads in Saudi sand indefinitely — we'll never "frack" our way to a sustainable future. It's time for a New Energy Paradigm. There's no silver bullet. But there's plenty of (green) buckshot, if we aim high and point America in the right direction. Keep drilling, but have a Plan B, C and D. We need real leadership, and a viable, bipartisan blueprint for inevitable energy independence from President Obama and Congress. Yes, health care is important. So is the long-term health of our air, land and water. There are steps all of us can take today. I own one hybrid, another on order. I bought a home a mile away from my office, to reduce my carbon footprint (and preserve some sense of sanity). But there's more I can do. Let's challenge ourselves to reinvent our own energy ecosystems. America 2.0.: "The best way to predict the future? Invent it." I don't pretend to have the answer key. But the same Tenacious, Fast-Forward, Can-Do American Spirit that built the transcontinental railroad, the Internet, lasers and the first artificial heart — sending men to the moon in a breathtakingly short period of time — will ultimately figure this out. My youngest son is graduating from the Naval Academy in May, and then heading to Pensacola. He'll be flying choppers or jets; F-18s that can already run on biofuels. The Navy is serious about renewables and alternative fuels. Because it's the best way forward — protecting our troops, securing supply lines, creating economies of scale that will make biofuels more competitive, leaving the Navy less vulnerable to price shocks in the oil markets. Hedge your bets. Put fewer troops at risk. Think ahead. Only the paranoid survive. ... "The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place, we are entering a period of consequences." - Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm

Monday, February 27, 2012

Differences in Child Well-Being by State

The index is composed of 25 indicators clustered into seven different domains or dimensions of child well-being. These are the same seven domains used every year in the construction of FCD‘s CWI. The seven domains are: 1. Family Economic Well-Being 2. Health 3. Safe/Risky Behavior 4. Education Attainment 5. Community Engagement 6. Social Relationships 7. Emotional/Spiritual Well-Being Key findings from this study include: > The six states with the best child well-being scores are New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Utah, Connecticut, and Minnesota. > The six states with the worst scores are New Mexico, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Nevada, and Arizona. ... Notice a trend? "The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place, we are entering a period of consequences." - Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm

Saturday, January 07, 2012

PoliticFact Sells Out

In 2009, PolitiFact awarded its annual Lie of the Year distinction to the claim that the Affordable Care Act included death panels. In 2010, Lie of the Year went to Republicans for saying the Affordable Care Act was a "government takeover of health care." This year, Democrats got the distinction for saying that Paul Ryan’s budget would "end Medicare." Paul Ryan actually campaigned to get PolitiFact to name "end Medicare" their Lie of the Year. Guess what? PolitiFact caved in. And yet Ryan is one of the prime offenders behind the 2010 Lie of the Year -- that the Affordable Care Act was a "government takeover" of the health-care system. Some real fact checking is order: Medicare is currently a public, single-payer, defined-benefit health-care system. Ryan’s budget would turn it into a defined-contribution system relying on private insurers. Sure, it would still be called Medicare, and it would still offer some amount of health-care coverage to seniors over age 65. The resemblance is superficial. I’m not really interested in debating whether this actually ends Medicare, or merely ends Medicare as we currently know it. I would say the Ryan budget contained one of the year’s major lies: Its savings relied on either capping Medicare’s rate of cost growth at inflation -- which every serious health-care policy expert will tell you is completely impossible. Its savings were thus illusory. Whether the Ryan budget ends Medicare, it doesn’t end the deficit. The meta-point here is that we’re seeing, in real time, why the "fact checker" model is probably unsustainable. A few weeks ago, the conservative Weekly Standard published a cover story called "Lies, Damned Lies, and ‘Fact Checking’". Subhead: "The liberal media’s latest attempt to control the discourse." Over at Big Government, John Nolte put it more bluntly: "MSM fact-checkers are an absolute cancer on our political process, a cynical and partisan conceit created by the left-wing media that allows them to arbitrarily judge what is and is not the truth, all in an effort to bring down Republicans and boost Democrats." Steve Benen, Paul Krugman, and others speculate that PolitiFact’s decision to choose a claim associated with Democrats as ‘Lie of the Year’ was a tacit answer to these attacks. ‘See? We’re not liberal! We’re defending Paul Ryan!’ If they had chosen one of their other Lie of the Year contenders -- for instance, the claim that the stimulus created "zero" jobs -- they might have lost the right forever. And that, ultimately, is the problem with the fact checker model. They have no actual power, so their only influence comes from the public’s sense of their legitimacy. And about half of the public leans towards one party and about half of the public leans toward the other. That means PolitiFact and these other outlets need to find some uneasy balance between the parties, too. But that just means the parties will have plenty of opportunities to decide that these are hackish, partisan operations. Conservatives got there a few weeks ago, and now liberals are following. The likely result is that these outlets will be listened to when one side or the other finds it convenient and ignored otherwise. Rather than policing the political discourse, they’ll just become one more bludgeon within it. Much as politicians have figured out how to game the he-said, she-said conventions of news reporting, they’re figuring out how to game the fact checkers. And so the umpires become unwitting players in the very game they’re trying to referee. ... "The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place, we are entering a period of consequences." - Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm