Monday, February 9, 2009

2/9/09 Shailagh Murray

Todays Post Politics chat. Two questions. Neither answered:

Prescott, AZ:
Something like 99% of economists, including the ones with Nobel Prizes, say federal government spending, on things like financial aid to states, food stamps, and unemployment insurance get more "bang for the buck" than tax cuts.
Yet when the "bipartisan" types in the Senate started slashing through the stimulus package, they appear to have specifically targeted the very type of stimulus that the highly regarded economists are saying is most essential, and either left in or even increased tax cuts that most economist don't think very highly of.
You've recently authored or collaborated on a number of articles about the Senate's stimulus debate. Have you asked these Senators about what particular insights they might have that causes them to ignore the professional opinions of economists? If not, why not? And if they have answered this, what are they saying? Does it jive with reality?

Prescott, AZ:

Any chance the Post could bring back their fact-check articles they were running during the campaign?
All last week, I heard Republicans complaining that this bill (except the tax-cut parts) stole from children. Well when the compormise came out, Republicans managed to cut this spending:
• $100 million for distance learning
• $1 billion for Head Start/Early Start
• $5.8 billion for Health Prevention Activity

I actually thought Ms. Murray did a good job in this chat today with substance. Given that in the past she has really irked some people with her answers (Atrios calls her "the devil" because she really, really, didn't like questions about the Valerie Plame affair and it was pretty obvious the whole outing a CIA agent thing bored her), I congratulate her.
There was one pet peeve instance in this chat. I don't like when they answer questions (usually dealing with process-type stuff) that someone could look up on the Google in 5 seconds:

Wilmington, N.C. : I'm new at this. So the House has one bill; the Senate theirs. So how is it decided which bill is passed and which is vetoed? Or do they get together and consolidate ideas from both? Thanks.

Shailagh Murray: This week the House and Senate will hold what's known as a conference committee, a huge gathering of leaders from both parties and both chambers, committee chairmen, and assorted others, who will set out to blend the two packages. Behind the scenes, staffers for all these folks will work around the clock, doing the real work. The Senate has the upper hand on this bill because Democrats aren't totally in control -- they have 58 votes, two short of the 60 needed to break a filibuster -- so they MUST retain some Republican support, meaning the final bill is likely to closely mirror what the Senate is expected to pass tomorrow. This process will take at least through Friday and very likely at least part of the weekend.

Am I being too harsh? I mean maybe this person is truly a political newbie and doesn't know where to start, but it is pretty easy to look up on your own how conference works, and I sometimes think that chatters answer these sorts of questions to get their hour over with. They filibuster, so to speak. During the election there was tons of "How many electoral votes does South Carolina have?" questions answered.
I should say that I have asked process questions when it was obvious that the political journalist in question let on that they either didn't know what the process was, or had it totally wrong. For instance, a few weeks ago Ann Kornblut was talking about the President issuing blanket pardons for torture related crimes. It was obvious Kornblut had no idea that a person accepting a presidential pardon was accepting guilt for a crime, and that if someone accepted a blanket pardon for torture, they were basically admitting to the World Court, Hague, etc. that they were guilty.
So I wrote in along the lines of "doesn't a pardon traditionally mean you are guilty? Wouldn't the World Court find such a torture admission interesting?" It got the ball rolling, and Kornblut proved she didn't know this pertinent bit of process.
I like to think these sorts of process questions educate the political insiders and help introduce a new set of variables to what is often insular thinking.

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