Winners and losers

Depending on who you talk to, you’ll get a different list of priorities, but essentially, we all believe that the government’s essential function is to mitigate public risk. Some people want the government to focus on mitigating the risk of global instability, foreign wars, and terrorists. They might agree that a strong internal defense is necessary and that the government should help mitigate the risk of criminality, insurrection, fraud and force. Others want the government to mitigate economic risk; they want the government to stabilize financial markets and to subsidize and regulate economic transactions.

All this risk management comes at a cost. Generally speaking, the higher the risk, the greater the potential reward, the lower the risk, the lower the reward. Mitigating risk means reducing potential profits: trading wealth for security. It doesn’t matter if we’re reducing the risk of terrorist attacks, the risk that we might lose money on investments, the risk that we might get sick, or the risk that we might get mugged. No matter what security we buy, we have to pay for it.

In small doses, that makes sense. We trade a little wealth (or we give up higher rates of growth) for a little security. After all, massive returns in the market aren’t worth much if buildings are exploding around you, if you’re shot in a drug raid, or if you bet on the wrong stocks and your portfolio goes south.  I don’t have a theoretical problem with trading some wealth for some security, but I also don’t want to trade too much. Security doesn’t matter much if I have no wealth. After all, what point security but to protect what I hold dear?

The problem with mitigating risk is that the only way to do it is to spread risk around. You can’t eliminate risk, you can only “level” it off. Let’s say I wanted to reduce the risk of gambling in a casino. I could rig the games to produce a more “equitable” result; fewer losers and fewer winners. Or, I could simply tax the winners and give some of their winnings to the losers. Functionally, the means are different, but they achieve the same outcome. Rigging–or regulating–the casino games is exactly the same as increasing taxes. The increased regulation acts as a damper on winnings, in just the same way that increased taxation does. I can only reduce the risk by reducing the potential reward.

This is true of all risks. I can only lower the risk of financial insolvency for some investors by reducing (either through regulation or taxation) the potential return on investment for everyone. I can only lower the risk of terrorism or foreign attack by reducing the scope of international trade and domestic freedoms (trading security for the potential return on free, open trade).

It’s also true that we can’t effectively mitigate all risk. We have to pick and choose where we want to focus our efforts–and we have to pick and choose whose risk to dampen, whose security to protect, whose assets to rescue. This puts us in the position of deciding who we’re going to let “win,” who we’re going to let “lose,” how big we’ll let the winnings get, and how much we’re willing to lose.

Well, we don’t decide–we let the government decide for us.

When we let the government mitigate our risk, we let the government pick winners and losers.

In any government program, rule, regulation, or tax, there’s a winner and a loser.The stimulus bill picked a lot of winners; in many cases, the winners were explicitly identified. The losers are less visible, but no less real. The taxpayers who will bear the burden of the additional debt are some of the losers, but so too are the firms whose businesses were not sufficiently politically capitalized to merit inclusion. Amtrak gets additional money to continue operating and the taxpayers take a hit. But so do bus companies, the airlines, and anyone who else who competes with Amtrak. The same is true of the bailouts, only more strikingly so. Bear Sterns was bailed out, Lehman Brothers was not.

Winners and losers.

In the course of mitigating risk from domestic criminality, anarchy, fraud, theft, and force, the government generally has a centuries of accumulated legal guidelines to ensure that the selection of winners is made according to well-established procedures and rigorous due-process; we have the courts, rules of jurisprudence, stare decisis, and the common law.

It’s when we get into the mitigating the risk of foreign threats and domestic economic malaise that the criteria for determining who gets to win and who gets to lose becomes… more subjective. Deciding to give Amtrak millions of dollars in operating subsidies, or to assume part of the USPS pension obligations, to bail out AIG, or to tax the bonuses that AIG gave out, to cover this medical procedure and deny that medical procedure, or to decide that mortgage interests should be tax-deductible while rental payments should not be… those are all political decisions.

That’s crucially important. When the government picks these winners and punishes these losers, the reasons are invariably political. Whom to bail out and whom to tax are not decisions made by judging objective criteria–they couldn’t be, because there is no criteria around which to create a decision making framework. These are purely political decisions, made for purely political reasons.

When we ask why Lehman Brothers was ignored, or why some financial windfalls are subject to a 90% tax and others aren’t, why some contracts are honored and others aren’t, why the Treasury addresses some issues and not others, the only answer is because those are the results that are politically expedient or advantageous to the party in power.

It’s not even really appropriate to speak of justice when we talk about these kinds of political decisions, because there’s no sense in which these decisions can be evaluated by any standard relevant to a coherent notion of justice. Justice, when we speak of justice in the courts or justice in law, is a the result of a codified, coherent, and complex process that we have developed and refined over the course of the last three thousand years.

When we speak about the result of a political decision, however, we’re not talking about the result of a process, just the simple manifestation of political will. Is it “right” that the AIG bonuses are subject to a 90% tax? There’s no way to evaluate that tax as “right” unless we define it as right to begin with. In other words, we can’t adjudicate political decisions or subject them to due process, they simply are what they are: the manifestation of political will.

It’s tempting to believe that the politicians exercising these powers are somehow nobler than the rest of us, or that they’re somehow immune to confirmation bias, temptation, and petty grievance, but it’s not true. In fact, it’s emphatically not true. Politicians respond in general to incentives and temptations in the same way that everyone does: they act to maximize their own long term gain. (The formal study of political interest is known as public choice economics.) Politicians will reward those people who are in the best position to reward politicians. Politicians will punish those people who are least likely to benefit them: the “aristocracy of pull.”

We’ve seen the selection of winners and losers on a grand and sweeping scale in the last few months and all of those decisions have been purely political decisions designed made for purely political reasons. This has all been in the cause of mitigating the risk of collapsing financial markets.

But we can’t mitigate that risk without cost, and whatever we choose to do about the risk, the end result will be the same:  we’ll take from some people (the losers) and we’ll give that money to some other people (the winners). The current administration is picking those winners and losers with alarming speed, very little deliberation, and absolutely no due process.

I’m left wishing that we could subject political appropriations to a process as rigorous and as tested as the court system, but we can’t. Such process as exists for deciding political issues is limited to the procedural rules in Congress and the process of elections. To analogize further with the court system, it’s as if we tossed out the common law, stare decisis, the rules of evidence, the adversarial system, and the judge. We’re left with only jury selection and procedure: hardly a reliable system.

The only way to subject questions of political expropriation to an objective process is to take those decisions out of the legislature. Until and unless we can agree to place further limits on the government’s power to extract and expropriate wealth, until we decide that the arbitrary results of influence peddling and political arm-twisting should be disdained rather than ennobled, we’ll continue to see more of the same.

Isn’t that a risk we shouild mitigate?

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Snowed In, (??)

So, I’ve been posting excerpts of a short story, “Snowed In.” It’s not an example of my best writing, and for all I know it may not even be an example of passably acceptable writing. But it’s fun and I find it entertaining and….I have no idea where to go from here. I’m at a dead stop in the story. Which, considering that nothing has actually happened is quite an accomplishment.

I started this story as a writing exercise: take a moment and write it. That moment was sliding down a snowy hill in a blizzard in Vermont. Did that. The fragment (what was posted as excerpt 1) sat for a couple of years. Then, about six months ago, I went back and filled in the rest of what I’ve got: a couple of faceless protagonists (one of whom seems to be kind of a jerk), a great, creepy, lunatic… something or other (Harold), and Stan, who has my favorite scene in the whole piece. But what is it all? I don’t know. I didn’t have a plotline when I started, or when I picked it up, and despite looking at it every couple of weeks or so for the past few months, I can’t decide where to go with it.

John’s upstairs in bed. Steve has brushed his teeth and has retired his underdeveloped self off to some other room in the house where he rests his insubstantial character amongst the shadows… Harold is downstairs happily munching away while watching some good tube.

But what next? I don’t know. What happens next? What the hell is Harold? I have ideas, but frankly, they all suck. And they’re stuck. All these lousy, cliche ridden ideas are jammed in my brain like so many messy cheezios… I can’t get past them to figure out what happens next.

If you have any thoughts, let me know. I may not pick them up as presented, but who knows? And maybe you can help break the logjam in my imagination.

Snowed In, (4)

Previous:

Well, Harold was completely fucking crazy. Maude might have been OK. But Maude was a nurse who worked an early shift, so she was rarely awake when John and Steve came back in the evening. She could have been just as bat-shit weird as Harold and they’d never know it. John and Steve had pulled in at about four in the afternoon on Sunday, just three days ago. The day was bright and crisp and brittle with cold. Maude had been in the front by the garage splitting wood as John pulled into the driveway. Harold had been helping her. It had made Steve chuckle, little Maude swinging the six pound maul and giant Harold carefully placing the rounds of wood. As each piece was split, Harold would grab a new round of wood and place it on the stump. Then Harold would pick up the pieces and stack them. He’d grab a new round, Maude would swing… whack. Harold placed the new round, and the process would repeat itself. John and Steve pulled up in front of the Garage and climbed out. Thwack! Harold put a new round on the stump and looked up at them. “Hiya! You must be John. Welcome to Vermont!” He picked up the split pieces of wood and stacked them. Thwack! Harold grabbed a new round and put it on the stump. Maude brought the maul down and split the round easily. She looked up as the boys came closer. Maude stood the maul up against the stump and arched her back. Harold was bent down picking up the split pieces of wood and Maude could barely see over his back; she couldn’t have been more than five feet tall. As Harold stacked the wood, Maude took off a glove and held out her hand.

“Maude Crick, nice to see you!”

“Hi! I’m John Walters and this is Stephen Burger.” John shook Maude’s hand while Steve waved at everyone.

Maude’s grip was firm and her smile was wide, “This big lump here is Harold.” Harold was standing still with a vacant expression on his face. “Don’t mind Harold, he’s just catching his wind,” Maude said as she whacked Harold on the shoulder.

Harold seemed to jump a little as he was jolted back into life. Harold took John’s outstretched arm into his gloved hands and pumped vigorously. He did the same with Steve. “Good to meet you! Steve was it? Well! Mind our manners! Let’s get you boys something hot to drink!” With that, Harold ambled away and back into the house. John watched Harold go and then realized that Maude had been watching him stare at Harold.

“Don’t worry about him, boys. He’s just got a bad back, can’t swing the maul like he once could. I don’t mind it… keeps me warm. But Harold’s right, let’s get you boys in out of this cold! Got any bags?”

At first, the kitchen seemed bright and cheery. The counters were white and the cabinets were all pale blond oak. The appliances weren’t new, but they were well cared for and the walls were covered in a bright wallpaper bursting with little pink flowers. There was a little sign over the sink that said “Bless this home” and another one on the wall with a little blackboard underneath that read “Maude’s Kitchen.” Harold had put a kettle on the stove and was rummaging through a cabinet.

Maude was unwinding her scarf and smiling at the two boys. “That’s all the bags you have? Two little backpacks?”

Steve unslung his bag and said, “Yeah, the car is loaded up with gear, but this is all we really need.”

Maude nodded. “Ayuh. I guess it is. Well, let me show you your rooms! Harold, you get these boys something hot and sweet to drink.”

Harold nodded, “I’m gettin it mother, I’m gettin it.”

Maude led the boys upstairs, showing them two neat, spare little rooms under the eaves. The rooms were clean and smelled of cedar and fresh laundry. The paint was crisp and the hardwood floor well polished. The rooms were nice, but antiseptic. The bedding was conventional New England patterned quilt and the closets were completely bare. There were no dressers or tables, and no photographs at all. The walls were sparsely decorated with the kind of small watercolor prints that you buy at Walmart and see hanging in your dentist’s lobby. One room down in pastel blues and whites and the other in muted pinks and soft reds. The pink room had a large stuffed bear sitting in a rocking chair in the corner, the price tag still hanging from its ear.

John and Steve dropped their bags in their respective rooms and Maude ushered them back downstairs to the kitchen. Harold was setting the table with steaming mugs on little matching saucers. The china pattern was pink floral–almost exactly the same color pink as Harold’s scalp. As Harold set the last two pieces of the pretty pink coffee set down, a creamer and a little sugar bowl, Steve and John took their seats at the table.

“Drink it while it’s hot, boys! And would you pass the cream and sugar down this way, mother?” Harold settled into a chair at the end of the table.

Maude didn’t sit, but instead bustled into the kitchen. “Get it yourself you oaf, you forgot to set out some cookies!”

As Harold replied, he lifted himself partially out of his chair and stretched across the table to grab the creamer set. “You’re right, mother. You’re right, I plum forgot.” He added a good amount of cream to his cup. “Now, I know you boys must be right cold from the drive, so drink up. Maude will have some cookies out here too.”

Steve was sitting opposite John, holding his cup halfway to his mouth and staring into it. He looked up at John with an odd expression on his face just as John picked up his cup and took a small sip.

John coughed and sputtered, nearly choking on the hot grape soda.

Maude was behind him. “Oh, you OK there honey?”

John nodded, coughing and finally managed a strangled “I’m fine.” As Maude sat down at the end of the table with a bag of Oreo cookies in her hand. “Just went down the wrong pipe,” John said.

“Oh honey, you OK? Good. You know, I’m a nurse if you need anything.”

John shook his head.

“Try some cream in it,” Harold said. “Makes it just like a hot grape creamsicle.”

Steve was smiling, his cup back down on the table. “Just like, I’m sure.” he said.

After Maude had finished her hot grape soda, she’d gone upstairs to bed. She’d said she worked early in the morning and needed her sleep. They hadn’t seen her since. In that time, they hadn’t actually seen Harold eat anything but Oreos and grape soda. And now the Cheez Whiz. They hadn’t seen Harold wear anything else either, he’d been up before them each morning, waiting in the kitchen for them to come downstairs, just as he had been waiting in the kitchen for them each night. There was other food, of course. Each morning there were stacks of pancakes with sausages and eggs, and each night there was a hearty, wholesome dinner: roast turkey, pork chops, chicken. But Harold hadn’t actually eaten any of it. They ate early, he said, and Maude was already in bed. The first two nights, John and Steve had eaten at the table, with Harold making attempts at conversation.
Conversation with Harold was difficult because every few seconds, he’d go blank. Sometimes he’d go blank in mid sentence and everyone would sit and wait until he’d swing his hand over the back of his head and down over his face. Steve called it a reboot. The blank-outs were usually short, but every so often they’d last a little longer. The first night, John and Steve had been too dumbstruck to react and had sat at the table staring mutely at Harold for a full five minutes.
Tonight was the worst. Harold had touched him. The memory of those fingers on his neck made John shiver in his sheets. He didn’t know how much more he could take. They’d joked about it at the restaurant, saying that they were afraid to go down into the basement for fear they’d find a body. Or bodies. It was absurd, but John couldn’t shake his fear. Harold had well and truly freaked him out tonight.

It wasn’t just the grape soda, or the cheez whiz and Oreos, although that was pretty bad. It was the blank-outs, the hyper cleanliness of the house, and as Steve had pointed out, the complete absence of any photographs anywhere. There were little plaques with homespun sayings, “God Bless this House,” and some bad watercolors on a few of the walls, but otherwise there were no photographs of any kind. No pictures of kids, no family photos, no frames on the end-tables or bookshelves. John thought the house looked more like a set than a home: everything was there but it was too sterile, too… plastic to feel much like a home.

more nudity

From CNN.

Turns out that the stimulus bill contained a special exemption designed to allow AIG to pay out bonuses.

“Multiple Senate Democratic leadership sources also deny knowing how the exemption got into the bill.”

Why didn’t they, you know, read the bill that they passed? I”m just asking….

No, no I’m not just asking. The stimulus bill was the biggest single piece of legislation that any of these people will ever have their name attached to.

And they didn’t freaking read the thing before they pushed it through. Chris Dodd, that paragon of integritude, wrote and sponsored the freaking exemption in question and he doesn’t know how the exemption got in the bill? Dude, it’s in there BECAUSE YOU PUT IT THERE. It’s got your name on it, bub. Own up.

So, now that Congress looks sort of stupid (because they are stupid), they want to tax those bonuses and recover the money. One proposal is to tax the bonuses at 70%. (Wow!) It’s been suggested that such a targeted tax could amount to a bill of attainder, but I’m guessing that so long as it targets more than just the AIG bonuses, it’ll be OK.

My question about a 70% tax on bonuses is, “you gonna tax all the bonuses, or just some?” I’m fairly confident that a number of people who received the bonuses will make less than $250,000 this year. I’m also pretty sure most of these bonuses were contractually guaranteed, which means that those recipients were counting on those bonuses as part of their regular income. Now they get a special 70% tax on their income because Chris Dodd is a freaking weenie and won’t defend the text of the law that he wrote and sponsored.

Here’s the quote,

If you make under $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increase by a single dime — not your income tax, not your payroll taxes, not your capital gains taxes, no taxes.

Yeah, yeah, I know; he’s already broken that promise (March. It’s March. He’s been in office less than two months.) but 70%? Them’s a lot of dimes.

The bonus stuff is all absurd. If you’re going to bail out a company, you give the company money to fulfill its obligations–that’s the point of a bailout. Now, I think the bailouts are a bad idea, but you can’t give the company money and then complain when they spend the money you gave them. That’s what you gave them the money for in the first place!

Sure, the bonuses are politically unpopular, and they should be, but the bonuses aren’t sneaky deals, they’re the cost of AIG staying in business. They’re like office supplies or computer equipment or employee compensation. The bonuses don’t represent AIG doing the wrong thing with the bailout money, they represent everything the bailout money is designed to be used for: evading the consequences of catastrophic failure.

Of course, that doesn’t make the posturing and monumental ignorance of the twits in Congress any less disheartening or contemptible.

Ps. Oh, Goldman Sachs got $93 billion of the bonuses. Geithner and Paulson are both from Goldman. Goldman depends on AIF for $93 billion and AIG gets a bailout with an exemption authorizing the bonus. Lehman was a competitor of Goldman. Lehman didn’t get a bailout. I’m just saying…. If the recovery tax somehow exempts Goldman, I won’t be too shocked.

Cut where? There??

At Yahoo News.

The Commander of the American Legion is upset because the Obama administration wants to push some VA health care costs into the private sector, essentially billing combat wounded veterans for the cost of their care.

Here, in case anyone is curious, are Obama’s campaign promises regarding Veteran care.

I realize that Obama needs to try and cut spending where he can (although he found money to subsidize tattoo removal), and I’m all for saving money and cutting spending… but this seems an odd place to start.

When you’re quadrupling the federal deficit it seems odd to then insist that combat veterans pay for their medical care. Of all the things the federal govt. spends its money on, medical care for combat wounded veterans seems the most reasonable.

Snowed In, (3)

Previous:

John closed the door behind him and saw Steve sitting on the edge of the bed.

“Holy fuck,” Steve whispered. “He’s fucking insane!”

John dropped his bag on the bed and glared at Steve. “Shut up, Steve.” he said, “Maude’s down the hall.”

Steve stood up and walked to the door. “I don’t give a fuck where she is, that dude is seriously fucked up.”

John dropped onto the bed, “What are you doing in here?” he asked. “I thought you’d go to your room. Now you have to go back out again.”

Steve was listening at the door, his head pressed to the wood. He was quiet for a moment and then came back to the bed. “I was going to brush my teeth when I heard you start up the stairs. I ducked in here because I thought Harold was coming up after you.”

John laid back on the bed and closed his eyes. “God help me; I thought he was coming up after me too.” John lay quietly for a moment and then sat up on the edge of the bed. Steve was standing with his ear pressed to the door and his toothbrush in his mouth. “Steve, I’m gonna crash. You want me to wake you up at 6 or 6:30?”

Steve looked back at John and took the toothbrush out of his mouth. “Get me up at 6. I’m gonna want to shower tomorrow morning.”

John nodded and gave Steve a half-salute. Steve opened the door and stared back and John for a moment. He turned and was halfway through the door when he looked back over his shoulder, a big grin on his face, and said, “Sleep tight, Johnny boy.”

John got up and locked the door behind Steve. Not that it would do much good. It was the kind of lock that you could pick with a toothpick. John was tempted to move a chair under the handle, but there weren’t any chairs in his room. Maybe he should rest a bottle on the handle? John shook his head. What did he really think was going to Happen? Harold was weird and creepy, but surely he wasn’t violent? Right? I mean, Joyce wouldn’t have recommended this as a place to stay if Harold was violent. Right? John pushed the press-board nightstand in front of his door and then unlocked the window over the front porch roof. The table wouldn’t stop anyone, but maybe it would topple over if the door was opened and make enough noise to wake John up. Then maybe he could escape through the window… into the dark and the cold and the snow. Great. He shook his head at the absurdity. But after he changed into his pajamas, he packed his backpack, and put it by the window, just in case. He wanted to leave the light on too, but he’d never sleep. He flipped the switch by the door and crawled under the pale blue sheets with the little pink flowers.

John got the job from Stan, out of the blue. Stan was like that. You wouldn’t hear from for months, and then he’d call you with a job.  And the jobs were always different. Once, Stan had asked John to help him out with a “special project.” “Bring the Sony,” Stan had said over the phone, “I just need a second camera. I got all the lights set up already.” John had packed up the Sony, a couple of lapel mics, a tripod and a few random filters. He’d taken the subway out to Brooklyn and Stan’s little studio. When he’d knocked on the door, Stan had answered wearing a skin-tight metallic gold leotard, giant black combat boots, and a purple wig. John spent the next six hours filming Stan as he stomped around his studio terrorizing a convention of naked Barbie dolls. John didn’t ask any questions, he just filmed the action as Stan directed it. At the end of the day, after John had dumped the footage onto Stan’s editing rig, Stan had given him a check for fifteen hundred dollars. Two weeks later, John got a DVD in the mail. It was a music video for the band, Freakshow. About halfway through the video were some clips that John had shot. Nothing in the video made any sense and the music sounded like chainsaws shredding metal. Three months later, Freakshow won a Grammy and the video John shot played during the awards show. It was the closest John had come to fame.

This job was little more… mundane. Stan was shooting a show on craft painting for the local PBS affiliate and he needed location footage of this little old lady in her studio. Stan had shot the interviews and a lot of the primary footage in the city, but now he needed b-roll stuff of Joyce in her studio. Joyce’s studio was in Vermont and it was February and since Stan wanted to go to Florida and sit on the beach, he hired John to go to Vermont and film Joyce paint pretty trees and flowers. John figured it would take a week to get all the shots that Stan wanted and he wasn’t thrilled with the idea of spending that week alone. Ever since Jill had gone, time alone had been rough. So John hired Steve to come up and be his assistant. Which was all fine; Steve was a friend and he needed the work.

The shoot was easy enough. Joyce was a sweet old lady and even though it was February and a little under negative sixty degrees outside, Joyce’s studio was bright and warm and cozy. The days in the studio had been tranquil and relaxing, even peaceful. The setup was simple enough that Joyce could paint, John could shoot, and Steve could track the timestamps of each shot and adjust the lighting as needed, without much conversation. Everything was quiet and relaxing. Joyce lived in rural Vermont, at least twenty miles from civilization. There was a giant picture window in her studio that gave an unobstructed view of miles of pristine countryside. Between the fresh coffee that Joyce’s husband brought to them every few hours and the pastoral setting, the week would have been idyllic.

Except for the nights… since the nearest motel was thirty minutes away, Joyce had recommended that the boys stay with a family down the road. A couple whose kids had grown and were left with a big house and two empty rooms that they sometimes lent out. Maude and Harold Crick. Joyce said that when her son-in-law’s family had come out for Christmas a few years back, his parents had stayed with the Cricks. They’d had a great time, in fact, Joyce believed that they still stayed in touch with Maude and Harold. It was perfect. Twenty bucks a night for the both of them. Just a skip down the road. Nicest people you’d ever want to meet. Convenient, cheap, cozy. And completely fucking crazy.

naked empire

There’s this from the Washington Post.

Too big to fail, too small to fail, too small to bailout, too small not to bailout, you’re spending too much money on employee compensation, you’re not spending enough money on employee compensation… the administration is all over the map. The dithering is breathtaking.

There’s this gem:

“We need you to put that assistance to work for the American economy,” Geithner said. “Many banks in this country took too much risk, but the risk now to the economy is that you will take too little risk.”

Seriously? Make more risky loans? That’s their solution? Make more risky loans??

I’ve said it before elsewhere, but it needs to be said again:

Geithner is so far out of his depth that his appointment to Treasury is a monumental embarassment to himself and the administration.

This from the NY Times.

“All across the country, there are people who work hard and meet their responsibilities every day, without the benefit of government bailouts or multimillion-dollar bonuses,” said Mr. Obama, who called the issue one of “fundamental values.”

“All they ask is that everyone, from Main Street to Wall Street to Washington, play by the same rules,” he said.

So Congress will give back their pay raises? What about the $93,000 per member expense accounts they just granted themselves? Will Congress end their franking privileges?

Will Rangel pay his taxes? Will Dodd tell us who else owns his Irish cottage? What about PMA? End earmarks? Will Congress submit itself to OSHA standards? What about energy consumption? Will Pelosi stop complaining about a lack of personal access to military Gulfstream jets?

It’s an issue of fundamental values, that’s for sure. The rules are just different in Washington.

And for the record, the last administration wasn’t any better. Nor was the last Congress. But neither got a free pass on their piles of sanctimonious, self-serving bullsh~t. This one shouldn’t either.