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The Ugly Side of Mirrors

02/26/2014

The ugly step-sister of economics is politics, unfortunately.  I go to great lengths not to discuss politics, just as my father taught me.  Indeed, I can remember my first etiquette teacher telling me “in polite company, it is less unseemly to speak of bowel movements than political ones.”  A bit graphic, perhaps, but a point well made.  Partisan speech pollutes political thought.  So, it is often refreshing to listen to non-partisan experts discuss the subject.

Today, I listened to Charlie Cook of the Cook Report and Greg Valliere of the Potomac Research Group.  While I have listened to them for many years now (and even sat next to Valliere at lunch a few years ago in Scottsdale), I still cannot tell if either has Republican or Democratic leaning .

They agreed nothing will happen this election year in Washington.  That means no talk of a shutdown and no concerns about a national debt default, which is good.  However, that also means there will be no work done on a “grand bargain” or tax reform, which is bad.

There is no possibility of Republicans losing control of the House and only the slightest probability of them gaining control of the Senate.  In other words, no change!

They pointed out the President offered some minor entitlement reform last year, but having gotten zero compromise from the Republicans on revenue, he has now withdrawn that offer.  So, we have actually lost ground achieving a grand bargain.

There had been an earlier session on the cost of NOT doing immigration reform, and Cook pointed out that there are many “Reagan” Republicans who would gladly vote with the Democrats to fix this problem but were afraid of a Tea Party challenger.  Because of this, he suggested there is a possibility of immigration reform AFTER the primary season.

Later in the day, we heard from Kevin Brady (R-TX), and our political thoughts got polluted.  This was a group of economists interested in his thoughts, as he is Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, not a partisan political rally in Texas.  The only problem he saw was Democrats who were opposed to “the American Dream.”  He made me appreciate Cook & Valliere and easily earned my vote as the least illuminating speaker of the conference.

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