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Kudos to Congress

Gordon Adams at Foreign Policy on those who criticize the congressional budget deal for being too short-term: “The ‘long-termers’ are living in a dream world. Haven’t they been watching for the last three years? For a Congress that has been alternately limping and fighting from quarter to quarter, bickering about debt ceilings, shutdowns, and sequesters, two years is a very, very long-term deal.

“In fact, this ‘little’ deal is turning out to be a very big deal. Not because the details are so important; they are the classic representation of green eyeshade budget negotiating, not the Ten Commandments. But because it’s upended the atmosphere for budget discussions and changed budgetary politics for several years to come — precisely because it reflects the way Congress actually does business, as opposed to how some people want it to behave.”

Revisiting poverty stats

Vauhini Vara in the New Yorker looks at flaws in U.S. government poverty figures, which have since the 1960s been based heavily on food prices even though food makes up a much small proportion of household budgets now:

“A new study by a group of Columbia University researchers suggests what some policymakers have suspected for years: If you account for a fuller range of costs like clothing and shelter, and for government aid like food stamps, poverty has declined over the years — and by a lot. That is, even as people have limited wages and contend with high prices in the supermarket and elsewhere, the help from services like food stamps and from tax benefits like the Earned Income Tax Credit appears to have kept more people out of poverty. …

“Their finding: The proportion of poor people in the U.S. fell from 26 percent in 1967 to 16 percent last year.”

Ms. Vara says some on the left may worry that this will seem to “minimize the problem and make it harder to gain support for new anti-poverty programs,” but she points out that it “also may show that some anti-poverty programs of the past several decades appear to have achieved what they were meant for — which, one expects, should come as good news to everyone.”

Stand pat on parking tax

John Geeting at Keystone Politics urges Philadelphia to follow Pittsburgh’s example and not lower its parking tax: “Pittsburgh has a less developed pubic transportation system than Philadelphia and lower population density, but they have a parking tax that, at 40 percent, is twice as high as Philly’s 20-percent tax.

“Pittsburgh’s parking tax is the highest in the nation, and was even 50 percent at one point. This, along with the legacy of the land-value tax in Pittsburgh, is one reason why Pittsburgh doesn’t look like Detroit, with 40 percent of its developable land in the city devoted to storing idle vehicles rather than productive economic activity.”

Pennsylvanians at war

Chris Briem at Null Space notes the recent dedication of Pittsburgh’s World War II Memorial on the North Shore and writes: “Rarely mentioned these days is another Pennsylvania WWII anniversary coming up next week. Dec. 16 is the anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. At the center of the attack was the 28th Infantry Division. The 28th division was formed from, and remains, the core of the Pennsylvania National Guard.

“The division took heavy losses in fighting the 5th Panzer Army, but in doing so was able to hold off the attack for three days, severely upsetting the timetable of the German advance. The reason the 28th ID was where it was? It had been placed in a ‘quiet’ sector to rest after difficult fighting in The Battle of Hurtgen Forest, said to be the longest single battle ever fought by the U.S. Army.”

Castro and Kanye

Conan O’Brien: “President Obama shook hands with Cuban dictator Raul Castro. Or as Fox reported it, ‘Foreign communist shakes hands with the leader of Cuba.’ ”

Jay Leno: “Kanye West said he wants to be the ‘Obama of clothing.’ To achieve his goal, he’s designing fashions that nobody wants and offering them on a website that doesn’t work.”

Now you know

A favorite recent correction: “A Slate article (on evolution) said that saddle-backed tamarins are socially monogamous. Recent research has shown that they are not.”

Compiled by Greg Victor (gvictor@post-gazette.com).


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