About Super Tuesday

Josh ThompsonSuper Tuesday Voters

Let’s recap: A lot of people in a lot of states participated in presidential nominating contests yesterday. Though no one expected Huckabee to win anything, he did. And no one expected that McCain would be derailed; he was not. No one expected that the Democratic race would have a decisive conclusion; it does not. Ms. Clinton won more large states–as was expected–while Mr. Obama won more total states. What that means for conventional wisdom, delegate counts, and the public at large is still unclear.

And now let’s stop talking about it. And talk about how, again, I want to reconsider my support of this whole process. Well, not really. This time I still like the process. I like that average people are choosing these candidates and not merely a few party elites. I like that these candidates are becoming better understood by the people they so desire to lead. It’s not a bad process.

But I’m really really wondering what else we’re missing as we do all this. How much more attention would Kenya be getting if we didn’t worry so much about this game? How much more attention would be given to Tadic’s reelection in Serbia? How much more attention would have been paid to the skirmishes for Chad’s capital of N’Djamena?

How much more would we worry about President Bush’s proposed budget for 2009? Or about the efficacy of the stimulus package that Congress is putting to a vote? Or that the attorney general still refuses to say anything meaningful about waterboarding or torture?

The answer seems to be, upon reflection, not much. Those international stories are surely too obscure to get much attention in American media even on the slowest day of the year. And the domestic news is being ignored because the country has lost almost all confidence in–and perhaps more importantly, concern about–President Bush and all that he may or may not be attempting to do in his final year.

So perhaps it’s not so bad, the way that we’re flooded with campaign coverage. Surely some worthwhile things that would otherwise get coverage go missing while the media works to satiate our seeming unending hunger for presidential punditry, however oversimplified, overdramatic, or just plain weird.

But this country is in the process of making an important decision, and it’s not so bad that media outlets are trying to help us make the right one. We will, after all, let this person run our country for the next four years. Perhaps it’s not so bad making sure they are everywhere we look before we make that choice.

Dispatches, fiction

Dispatches: A New Way to Fight Recession

In light of recent financial news, Steve Finch files an interesting report that he asked us to file under, “I wonder if that would work.”

Chris Phan (flickr)No Sales Tax

WASHINGTON — The Secratery of the Treasury today announced a interesting plan to combat the economic slowdown that has led many to speculate that the country is in the midst of a recession: a sales tax holiday.

The plan, which would require a great deal of legwork to get off the ground, is rather simple: to stimulate spending and recharge the economy the federal government would eliminate all sales taxes across the country for an entire week.

The problem, which critics were quick to point out, is that the federal government has no jurisdiction to lower sales tax rates. Sales tax in the country is controlled by states and municipalities.

To these critics, the secretary was quick to offer this solution: the federal government will reach agreements with all states–who are then responsible for reaching agreements with municipalities–to reimburse them for all income lost during the holiday. Speaking frankly, the secretary said, “We feel this system will be faster and more beneficial than the tradition plan for a tax rebate, which takes a great deal too much time to create and then reward to citizens.

“We must always remember those words repeated to the point of meaninglessness: targeted, temporary and timely. We feel confident that this plan meets all of those criteria better than any alternative.”

Asked about states and municipalities without sales tax, Treasury’s response was that they’d made the decision that making special exceptions for these cases was impractical, and so they would simply maintain the goal of keeping sales taxes at zero for one week across all the states.

Economists’ views on the topic were mixed. Some felt that the plan was innovative and as likely to work as anything else. These “optimists” made the point that all stimulus plans fail, and this one’s failure is likely to as insignificant as all the others.

Others made clear that the plan would be a logistical nightmare. “Not only must the states and municipalities reach hurried agreements with rough projections of earnings for what is meant to be a week of extraordinary spending. But the headache it will be for businesses whose computers are built to assess sales taxes automatically is hard to imagine,” offered Bob Davis with Americans for Simplified Taxation.

As with all such plan, this must be approved by Congress. Both the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader are hopeful that they will be able to quickly pass the program without much hassle. Speaking frankly, the speaker admitted, “But I don’t know the last time that happened.”